Initial Appearance




Initial Appearance

For many people, this will be the first (and perhaps only) time they ever appear in court.  The purpose of the initial appearance is to ensure you understand the violations the town alleges you committed and to take your plea.

  • If your citation is marked "YES" for Appearance Required (upper left corner), you must attend court in person.
  • If you are not required to attend in person, you may still attend in person, appear by an attorney, or enter your plea in writing.
  • If you are not required to attend in person, you may plead guilty by paying the full deposit amount listed on the citation to the court prior to the date/time of your initial appearance.  You will be found guilty and the deposit will be accepted as forfeiture for the offense (in very limited circumstances, the judge may reject your plea and require you to attend court; you will be notified of this in writing if it happens).
  • If you are not required to attend in person, you may enter your plea in writing; it must be RECEIVED by the clerk prior to the day and time for your initial appearance (an example "Plea of Not Guilty or No Contest" in available on the forms page).

If you attend your initial appearance:

  1. When your name is called, come forward to the table or podium in front of the judge.
  2. The judge will inform you of the exact charge against you, the range of penalties that may be imposed if you are found guilty, and then ask for your plea.
  3. You may request a continuance if this is your first appearance and you would like more time to seek advice or consult with an attorney.

Entering A Plea

  • If you enter a plea of GUILTY, you admit that you committed the offense listed on your citation.  If the citation contains the necessary elements, you will be found guilty and a forfeiture will be imposed.  The forfeiture will be within the range of penalties for the offense.  The forfeiture may be more or less than the amount listed as a bond or deposit on your citation.
  • If you enter a plea of NO CONTEST, you do not admit guilt (or civil liability), but understand the judge will find you guilty and order you to pay a forfeiture.
  • If you enter a plea of NOT GUILTY, you deny that you committed the offense or demand that the town prove that you are guilty.  The judge will schedule the matter for a trial.  The clerk will send you a notice of your trial date and an order from the judge with instructions related to the trial.
  • NOTE:
  1. The court cannot change the number of points assessed against your drivers license by the Department of Transportation if you are found guilty of an offense that has points.  For example, if you plead guilty or are found guilty of an offense that carries 4 points, regardless of the monetary forfeiture the court may order, DOT will assess 4 points against your license (or, potentialy more if you have prior driving violations).
  2. If you want to plead guilty to an offense that has lower penalties (monetary forfeitures or drivers license points), you must discuss such a settlement with the town's prosecuting attorney (the clerk can give you his contact info).  The court cannot "amend" the citation against you unless both you and the town's attorney agree to it.

If You Are Found Guilty, after pleading "guilty" or "no contest"

  1. You will be given an opportunity (unless you pleaded "no contest" by mail) to make a statement before the judge examines your record and sets any penalty.
  2. The judge will ask if you want to pay any forfeiture immediately.  If you cannot, you will be given 60 days to pay any forfeiture in full.  The judge may allow you to enter into a payment plan with the clerk.
  3. If you cannot pay due to poverty, you can request an indigency hearing (an example "Request for Indigency Hearing" form is available on the forms page).

If You Do Not Attend your initial appearance

(and you were required to do so on the citation, you did not pay the full deposit amount, or you did not file a written plea), the judge will find you guilty of the offenses and enter a default judgement against you.  In some circumstances, the judge may instead issue a warrant for your arrest.