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Getting Ready for Your Court Appearance

What if I need special accommodations for my disability?
Any persons with disabilities who require special accommodations or assistance should notify the Sparks Municipal Court at (775) 353-2286 prior to the date of their hearing.

Where can I find information on my charge(s)?
The Court recommends that you obtain a copy of the Sparks Municipal Code or Nevada Revised Statute under which you were charged. Both may be found on the internet.

What should I expect from the security screening process?
Providing a safe environment at the Sparks Municipal Court is considered a high priority. Visitors to the court are required to enter through an m metal detector and all briefcases, backpacks, purses, etc. will be checked. All weapons such as mace, knives, guns and any other object that could be construed as a dangerous weapon (i.e., small hand tools such as screwdrivers) will be confiscated and retained by the marshals until the individual exits the building, Surveillance cameras are mounted at various locations around and throughout the courthouse.

Do I need an attorney to represent me in court?
This is ultimately a question that you alone must answer. You have the constitutional right to represent yourself in any criminal proceeding in the Sparks Municipal Court. In most circumstances, it may not be necessary to retain any attorney for cases such as non-accident traffic matters. However, due to the potential serious consequences associated with offenses such as DUI or Domestic Battery, it is advisable to consult with or retain an attorney to assist you.

The City will be represented by an experience prosecutor who is a trained attorney. The Court will provide basic information, but you will be expected to know and follow the rules of procedure and evidence, as well as the proper method of asking questions. Also, remember that the Judge is not allowed to advice or substantially help you. Your decision to represent yourself may affect your case adversely. It may be highly beneficial that you retain an attorney to represent you.

Do I qualify for the services of a court appointed lawyer?
To qualify for a court appointed attorney, you must 1.) be facing a jail sentence, and 2.) are unable to financially afford to retain an attorney at the customary rate charged in this community for the offense you are charged with. The Sparks Municipal Court provides an application for the services of a court appointed private attorney to defend all defendants who provide information establishing that they cannot afford an attorney. Once the information is completed, the Judge will review it and determine, based upon your financial situation whether to appoint an attorney to represent you.
Can I speak to the Judge in an attempt to resolve my case?
An ex-parte (direct) communication between the defendant and the Judge is improper and prohibited. Attorneys also are prohibited from ex-parte communications with a Judge without proper notice an in exceptional situations. However, if you would like to address an issue regarding your case (i.e. motion to continue, request for attorney, plea by mail) you may file a motion with the court clerk.

What is an arraignment?
The defendant’s first appearance in court will normally be the arraignment. An arraignment shall be conducted within forty-eight (48) hours of arrest if the defendant is still in jail. If the defendant has been release on his own recognizance of has posted a bond or cash bail, or has been issued a citation, the arraignment will occur within thirty (30) days after the defendant’s release from jail or issuance of the citation.

At the arraignment, the defendant is informed of the charges against him and he/she is asked to enter a plea. The pleas may be one of not guilty, guilty, or no contest. If the defendant enters a plea of guilty or no contest (nolo contendere), the judge may in most circumstances, impose sentence immediately. If the defendant enters a plea of not guilty, the matter is normally set for trial within sixty (60) days of the arraignment date. Prior to entering a plea, the defendant is also informed of his constitutional rights as follows:

  1. I may plead guilty, nolo contendere, or not guilty to the offense(s) with which I am charged. If I plead guilty or nolo contendere, I give up the right listed below. If I plead not guilty I will be given a court date for trial.
  2. I have the right to a speedy trial within sixty (60) days from the date of my arraignment.
  3. At trial, I have the right to make the City (prosecutor) prove the charge(s) against me beyond a reasonable doubt.
  4. To do this, the City is required to call witnesses, and produce evidence. I have the right to confront and cross-examine those witnesses.
  5. I also have the right to use the subpoena power of this Court to bring in witnesses and evidence in my own behalf.
  6. I have the right to remain silent at trial and not incriminate myself. I do not have to make any statement, not do I have to testify.
  7. I have the right to be represented by an attorney, and if I am charged with an offense for which I face possible jail time, I have the right to re represented by a court appointed attorney if I cannot afford to hire my own attorney.
  8. I understand that the maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is up to six (6) months in the Washoe County Jail and a fine up to $1,000.
  9. I have the right to appeal any judgment of the Sparks Municipal Court. I understand that I must file the appeal within ten (10) days of judgment.

What is the difference between pleas of not guilty, guilty and nolo contendere (no contest)?
A not guilty plea means that the defendant asserts that he/she did not commit the offense and he/she demands a trial. A guilty plea means that the defendant admits committing the offense. A plea of nolo contendere (no contest) means that while the defendant does not admit the allegations, in the citations or complaint, he/she does not deny them either. If the defendant does not contest the charge, he/she is subject to the same sanctions or penalty is if he/she had pled guilty. A defendant does not make an admission of guilt when he/she pleads nolo contendere.

How can I get my witnesses to appear in court?
At the defendant’s request, the court clerk may issue subpoenas to ensure the appearance of witnesses and/or the production of evidence on behalf of the defendant. However, service of the subpoenas is the sole responsibility of the defendant. The defendant should obtain subpoenas as soon as the trial date is set.

How can I request a continuance on my trial date?
All requests for continuance of the trial must be made in writing with supportable reasons, and should be made at least ten (10) days before trial. You must serve a written copy of your request on the City Attorney. The Court will only grant your request if you have shown good cause. Do not assume your request has been granted. Check back with the court. No requests for continuance by telephone will be granted.

What can I expect at my trial?
All trials in Municipal Court are bench trials; that is, the Judge alone hears the evidence and decides the case. There is no jury.

Opening Statements:
The Prosecutor and the defendant will be given the opportunity to make an opening statement. An opening statement is not required. It may be reserved for later in the trial or it may be waived. The opening statement is intended to allow the parties to state to the Court what the evidence presented will show. It is not evidence to be used by the Court in making a decision.

City Prosecutor’s Case:
The City Attorney will call witnesses, some of whom may be police officers. The City Attorney will question the witness concerning any knowledge they may have of the facts of the case. After the City Attorney finishes questioning a particular witness, you as the defendant then have a right to cross-examine the witness. Cross-examination means asking questions concerning the facts to which the particular witness has testified. This is not the time for you to testify. The cross-examination questions should be directed to the witness’ testimony to test the witness’ recollection of facts. Each witness is treated in this same fashion. After the cross-examination is completed, the City Attorney will have the opportunity to conduct a re-direct examination. This means the City Attorney may ask additional questions only on facts of statements of a witness given on cross-examination.

When the City Attorney finishes calling all his/her witnesses, the City will rest its case. The City has the burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt by competent evidence presented to the Court.

Defendant’s Case:
If the defendant elects to proceed, he/she may testify under oath but is not, and cannot be, required to testify. If the defendant chooses to testify, the City Attorney has the right to conduct a cross-examination. Also, the defendant may present witnesses and other evidence at this time in the trial. The City Attorney may cross-examine these witnesses.

At the conclusion of the defendant’s case, the City Attorney will be given the opportunity to call witnesses to rebut the testimony of the defendant of his witness. If the City Attorney calls rebuttal witnesses, the defendant is allowed to cross-examine or call witnesses to rebut that testimony.

Conclusion of the Trial:
When both the City and the defendant have finished presenting their witnesses and evidence, they will have the opportunity to make a closing argument. The City makes the first argument; the defendant then makes an argument, and the City can then argue the defendant’s argument. A closing argument is each side’s summary of the evidence presented to the Court as viewed by each party. Closing arguments are not required and are not received by the Court as evidence to be used in making a decision. When all evidence is presented and final arguments are completed, the Judge will decide the case then or later.

If the defendant is found guilty the Judge will then impose sentence then or later. Before sentencing, the defendant will be given an opportunity to make a statement. The victim (if any) will be given an opportunity to make a victim statement.

Can I attend traffic school as a means of having my citation amended or to reduce the points on my driver’s license?
Generally, if the citation was not for a serious traffic violation, and you have not had an accident or other moving traffic violation in the past years, you can attend traffic school in order to have the citation amended to a non-moving violation, if approved by the Judge. If you complete the traffic school as directed and supply proof of the completion within the allotted time period to the court, neither the original not the amended charge will be reported to the DMV. Traffic school is separate and apart from the court. You will be charged a fee to attend class in person or online.

Can I do community service instead of paying a fine?
If you have been sentenced to pay a fine with applicable fees and assessments, you may request community service to satisfy the fine imposed. If granted, you will receive credit of $10.00 per hour of community service performed. You must, however, pay all fees and assessments, which cannot be converted to community service.