What to Expect in Court

Appearing in Municipal Court is usually the first time someone has had to appear in court. The following information is provided so that everyone may be prepared when they appear before the judge.

The Ballwin Municipal Court is a division of the 21st Circuit Court of the State of Missouri.  We are governed by the Supreme Court of Missouri just like any other court in the state.  We try ordinance violations in our court.  We do not try misdemeanors or felony cases.

Court Begins

Please note that you should dress appropriately for court.  If the bailiff feels you are not dressed properly, you will be asked to leave the courtroom.  Proper dress does not include halters, tank tops, bathing suit tops, etc.  Hats are not allowed to be worn in the courtroom.  All cell phones must be turned off.  There is no drinking or eating allowed in the courtroom.  There is no smoking allowed in the building. 

As the judge enters the courtroom, the bailiff will ask you to rise.  Remain standing until the judge is seated

During Court

The judge will make opening remarks, stating how court will proceed and what your rights are in court.  Your first appearance in court is considered your arraignment hearing. When your name is called, you will approach the bench and be told what you are charged with.  At this point, you have three options: 

  • Plead Guilty
  • Plead Not Guilty
  • Plead Guilty With an Explanation 

Upon pleading not guilty, the judge will set your case for trial on a different night and you will be free to leave. 

Upon pleading guilty or guilty with an explanation, you will then have the right to tell the judge anything that you feel is relevant to your case. Please be aware that by pleading guilty, a conviction will most likely be entered on your case. 

Pursuant to ordinance number 03-07, the judge may impose a fine not to exceed $1,000.00 per charge and / or a sentence in jail not to exceed 90 days per charge. 

If you feel you are not guilty, please plead not guilty.  If you plead guilty and during your explanation the judge feels that you believe you are really not guilty, she will have no recourse but to set your case for trial. 

Upon pleading guilty...

...you will be required to sign a plea form that will indicate that you are waiving your rights to the following: 

  • That you have been informed of the elements of the offense and the maximum penalty that may be imposed.
  • That you are making your plea of guilty by choice and are not being forced or induced into making this plea.
  • That you have been advised of your right to a trial and your right to a jury trial.
  • That you have been advised of your right to have legal representation.
  • That you have been advised that a plea of guilty in this court may affect your immigration status if you are not a full citizen of the United States. 

Upon pleading not guilty...

...you will be assigned a trial date. Please note the following information concerning trials: 

  • No continuance of trial settings may be given through the court office.  You must appear as indicated by the judge.
  • You may subpoena any witnesses you feel are necessary for your trial.  Blank subpoenas may be obtained through the court office.  You are responsible for serving these subpoenas.
  • You may be at a disadvantage if you try the case without legal representation.  The city has a prosecuting attorney that is experienced with all the rules and laws governing trials and you will be held to the same level of standards for the trial.
  • The trial will be a trial before the judge. You have the right to a trial by jury, but jury trials are not held in municipal courts.  You will need to “certify” your case(s) to St. Louis County Circuit Court for a jury trial.  There is no initial cost to do this, but the trial judge may impose a fee of $85.00 or more in order to have a jury trial.  You must request this jury trial no later than ten working days before the trial is scheduled in the municipal court.  The court staff will instruct you on how to request this.
  • If the Judge finds you guilty, after the trial you have the right to request a Trial de Novo, which is a new trial by a different tribunal.  Your application for Trial de Novo must be filed within 10 days of the first trial.  Payment of any portion of the fine or failure to file within 10 days forfeits your right to a Trial de Novo.  The new trial will be held in Clayton, Missouri at the Circuit Court of St. Louis County Courthouse.

    An application for Trial de Novo must be filed with the Clerk before transferring the case to Circuit Court. The fee for Trial de Novo request is $30.00.  The court will determine if the defendant qualifies as indigent. If indigent, there is no fee for Trial de Novo. 

    If you wish to file a Trial de Novo, you must tell the Judge or the municipal court clerk.  Forms are available at the Violations Bureau.