Municipal Court Jurisdiction
Cottonwood Municipal Court has jurisdiction over cases ranging from minor traffic violations to Class 1 misdemeanors that carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine plus surcharges. The Court also handles Orders of Protection and Injunctions Against Harassment.
The Court is the judicial branch of the Cottonwood City government and a part of the Arizona State Court System and is subject to the authority of the Arizona Supreme Court.
Court Appearance Options
The following information is intended to provide a brief description of the options available to you when you appear in court and help you understand basic criminal proceedings, including your rights and duties.
If you have been cited for a criminal misdemeanor offense, you must appear at the Cottonwood Municipal Court on the designated court date and time. At a criminal arraignment, you are advised of the charges pending against you. If you plead guilty or are found guilty, all fines assessed are due on the same day unless the Judge agrees to a payment plan.
If you choose to plead not guilty, the Court will set a pretrial conference where you will have the opportunity to talk with a City Prosecutor to discuss possible plea negotiations. Be aware that the City Prosecutor is not your attorney and he/she is prohibited from providing you legal advice on how your case should be handled.
An arraignment is a court appearance in which you are formally notified of the charges that have been filed against you. There are basically three options:
- Plead guilty or no contest to the judge. The judge may pronounce the sentence at that time or schedule sentencing for another day.
- Plead not guilty and get a new court date for a pretrial conference.
- You may enter into a diversion agreement, if eligible. Diversion means that the State will agree to suspend prosecution for a set period of time and the charge(s) may be dismissed if the diversion requirements are successfully met.
Once you have decided upon your plea, you will have to enter your plea with the Judge at your arraignment. Unless your case involves a "victim" who has asked to be present, no witnesses will be present at arraignment and no testimony will be taken.
At arraignment, the Judge will not grant a defendant's request to dismiss any charges. You simply enter your plea to the charge against you.
- If you enter a plea of guilty or no contest, you may be sentenced immediately following the Judge’s acceptance of your plea or you may be sentenced at a later date.
- If your plea is "not guilty," a pre-trial disposition conference will be scheduled followed by a trial setting. You must decide, if you have not already done so, whether to employ an attorney to represent you.
- You may represent yourself, but no one except an attorney may represent you on your case. Under some circumstances, a court-appointed attorney may be provided for you.
- If you feel that you cannot afford an attorney and wish representation, you may fill out an application requesting that an attorney be appointed to represent you. An examination of your financial status will be made to determine if you are entitled to a court-appointed attorney. If you are eligible, you may be ordered to pay a portion of the attorney's cost.
You have three options at the pre-trial conference:
- You may plead guilty and accept the Prosecutor's settlement offer, which contains the recommended sentence or diversion program terms you will receive upon acceptance by the Judge
- You can reject the Prosecutor's offer and change your plea of not guilty to guilty or no contest and accept the sentence determined by the Judge
- You can maintain your plea of not guilty and have the case assigned a date for trial.
Presenting The Case
If you are represented by an attorney, the attorney will advise you regarding the presentation of your case. If not, you need to be aware that the state will present its case first by calling witnesses to testify against you.
After each prosecution witness has finished giving testimony, you will have the right to cross-examine the witness. Your examination must be in the form of questions and you must not argue with the witness. Do not attempt to tell your side of the story at this time. You will have an opportunity to do so later in the trial.
After the prosecution has presented its case, you may present your case. You have the right to call witnesses of your choosing. It is at this point that you may testify on your own behalf if you so desire.
At the end of the trial, you will have an opportunity to summarize your case to the jury, or in a non-jury case, to the Judge. At that time, you may present any arguments that are based on the evidence presented during the trial and that tend to show your innocence.
The judgment or verdict will be based upon the facts and evidence presented during the trial. Only the testimony of witnesses who are under oath can be considered.
The amount of any jail sentence, fine, fee, restitution or probation assessed by the Court is affected by the facts and circumstances of the case and your prior criminal record. Mitigating circumstances may lower the amount of jail, fine or probation, even if you are guilty.
However, aggravating circumstances also may increase the amount of jail, fine or probation. For some offenses, there are statutory minimum sentences, which the judge must impose. In no instance will sentences exceed the maximum levels of $2,500 fine and/or six months in jail and/or three year's probation, (five years for DUI charges) for any one complaint.
An appeal is a request to a higher court to review the decision of a lower court. On appeal, no new evidence is introduced. The higher court is limited to considering whether the lower court erred on a question of law or gave a decision plainly contrary to the evidence presented during trial.