These hearings are designed to apprise the defendant of his or her rights, provide a reading of the charges by the judge to the defendant and seek a plea from the defendant. A plea is the defendant’s answer to the charges. Generally, the pleas available to a defendant are:
- Not Guilty: This plea is entered to inform the court that the defendant disagrees with the charges and desires to have a trial in front of a judge. Defendant’s entering a not guilty plea will be set for trial and the defendant must appear for trial.
- Guilty: This plea constitutes an admission by the defendant of the charges and material facts alleged by the prosecution. If a guilty plea is entered, then the judge will enter a finding of guilt and impose sentence.
- No Contest: This plea differs from the guilty plea because the defendant is not admitting to any charges or supporting facts – the defendant simply does “not contest” the charge(s). If this plea is entered the judge will make a finding of guilt and impose sentence.
Every accused person has the right to a trial, but there are no jury trials in Municipal Court. All trials are presented to a judge. Trial settings are fact gathering hearings in front a judge following established legal procedures wherein the prosecution attempts to prove its case against the defendant and the defendant is afforded his/her constitutional rights to present evidence, to cross examine witnesses and confront accusers. Defendants have the right not to testify at trial and the right not to make any incriminating statements should they choose to testify at trial. Only defendants or licensed attorneys representing defendants can make arguments and presentations at trial. The judge cannot act as the legal advisor for defendants and defendants, if they choose to present a defense, are required to present their cases within the confines of the law, court rules and criminal procedure. The prosecution and the defendant can present evidence, including witness testimony, but the burden of proof – beyond a reasonable doubt – is the prosecutor’s obligation to meet. The judge will review all of the evidence presented and compare it to the applicable law(s) to reach a decision. Typically, the judgment of the court is pronounced on the day of trial, but in some rare instances the judge may take matters under advisement for determination at a later date.
Both the Defendant and the Prosecutor have the right to request subpoenas from the Court seeking to have witnesses compelled to appear for and present testimony during trial. Download the Request for Subpoena form. Subpoena requests must be fully completed and submitted to the Court no less than fourteen (14) days before trial. Defendants have the right to review prosecution evidence prior to trial – this right is called discovery. Defendants desiring discovery must submit a written request to the City Attorney’s Office within 10 days before the date of your trial.
The City Attorney, Prosecution Division, is located at:
215 SE 7th
Topeka, KS 66603
Persons found guilty by plea or at trial must be sentenced. Sentencings can occur on the date of arraignment, the date of trial or they may be scheduled for a future setting by the judge. At sentencing, the prosecution and the defendant have the opportunity to address the judge to request the level of punishment that he or she thinks should be imposed. The judge may consider the nature of the offense, past offenses, etc. and rehabilitative options that he or she believes are warranted in the matter as part of the sentence imposed. Sentences can include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:
- House arrest
Every accused person has the right to be represented by an attorney in the Topeka Municipal Court. Defendant’s also have the right to represent themselves without an attorney, but use of a trained, legal, professional to represent accused persons cannot be underestimated and is strongly encouraged by the Court. In certain cases involving a potential jail sentence, a waiver of counsel form must be executed before a defendant can represent him or herself. Court appointed attorneys are not an automatic right for all accused persons facing charges in Municipal Court. Defendants seeking a court appointed attorney or public defender must meet certain legal conditions and financial guidelines established under law and by the Court before a public defender can be appointed. Only a judge can make the determination of whether an accused is to receive a court appointed attorney.
Each defendant adjudged guilty has the right to appeal his/her conviction to Shawnee County District Court. Appeals must be filed within 14 days after sentencing in Municipal Court. If the 14th day ends on a Saturday, Sunday, or a day the district court clerk’s office is not legally accessible, then the time period extends until the close of business the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. Moreover, the defendant has the right to be represented by an attorney on appeal, including the right to utilize the same attorney appointed by the Municipal Court judge in the original action.
Defendants also have the right to seek expungement of arrest and/or certain conviction records. Generally, an expungement is the process by which records of criminal arrest or conviction are destroyed or sealed after an expiration of time.