What happens at a trial?
All trials, except non-traffic juvenile cases, are public trials. You are presumed innocent and will be convicted only if the evidence is clear, convincing, and satisfactory that you committed the violation with which you have been charged.
This is a formal recorded proceeding where the Prosecutor and the Defendant have the opportunity to present their evidence before the Municipal Judge. Because the burden of proof is upon the municipality, they will present their evidence first. The prosecution will produce its witnesses to testify as to the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violation and may introduce documentary evidence. You (or your attorney) will be permitted to cross-examine each witness that testifies. Cross-examine means to ask questions of the witness, not make statements to the witness.
After the prosecution has introduced all of its evidence, you (or your attorney) will then have the opportunity to testify on your own behalf, call witnesses and present any evidence you have. The prosecution will be permitted to cross-examine each witness that testifies.
When you and the municipality have completed your cases, each will be given the opportunity to summarize, by brief argument, their respective cases to the Court. Thereafter, the Court will decide, based upon the testimony, the admissible evidence and the law, whether to find you guilty or not guilty. This judgment is usually decided immediately following the trial.
If the Court finds you not guilty, you will be discharged and the complaint against you will be dismissed.
If you are found guilty, the extent of the penalty is dependent upon the circumstances surrounding the violation and your past record.
What should I do to prepare for a trial?
If you plan to have a witness present, you need to make sure that they will be there on the day of the trial. Any such witness should have personal knowledge of the incident based on what he/she saw or heard. All witnesses must testify in person, and under oath. Do not bring in letters or statements written at your request; they are hearsay and more than likely will not be admitted as evidence. If you have any doubts that a witness you would like to call will not appear voluntarily, you have the right to subpoena him/her into court. A subpoena is a document you can obtain from the court. You must present the subpoena with the appropriate witness fees personally to the witness. You cannot mail the subpoena to the witness. If you decide to subpoena a witness, contact the Municipal Court Clerk at least two weeks before your trial date regarding the procedure to be followed and instructions for serving the subpoena.
Police Reports & Testimony
You should ask the Prosecutor in writing what witnesses he/she plans to use at the trial. If you want to ensure that those witnesses are used, you will have to subpoena them yourself. Also, do not assume that the Judge has seen the police report. The Judge has not read the police report and will not read the report unless it is properly submitted at the trial. Do not assume that the prosecution will submit it at the trial. If you want the Judge to see it, you will have to bring a copy and see whether or not it will be admitted as evidence. The Prosecutor may have valid objections to admission of the report, which the judge will consider in deciding whether to admit the report.
You may request a copy of the police report from the City Prosecutor. Your request should be in writing and should include your name, citation number and the date of your next scheduled court appearance. There will be a charge for photocopy expenses you must pay before you will receive a copy of the report. If your case involves a minor, the municipality's ability to provide you with copies of all or a portion of the report may be restricted by Wisconsin law or the City of Lake Geneva Police Department policies.
Photos, Maps & Drawings
If you think such evidence will help the Judge understand your case, bring them to court. However, you or whoever took the photos or drew the drawings should be prepared to testify about how and when the items came into being.
Testimony by the Defendant
If you plan to testify on your own behalf, think about what you are going to say beforehand. If you do testify, the Prosecutor will have the right to cross-examine. If you made a statement to the police or to others, these statements can be used against you at the trial. If you want to have copies of any statement you made, other witness statements or the police reports at the trial, contact the Prosecutors office no later than two weeks prior to the trial.
Will I have to pay more than the amount on the citation if I am found guilty?
It is a possibility. First, the prosecution may request payment for such things as witness fees, mileage and subpoenas. The forfeiture amount on your citation is not the maximum amount in most cases. The Judge has the authority to impose a higher forfeiture if he deems it appropriate. Finally, if you do subpoena witnesses, you will not be reimbursed for these expenses even if you are found not guilty.
If I change my mind, can I settle my case before the trial?
Usually you can settle your case before the trial simply by calling the Prosecutor who is handling your case. Do not wait until the last minute. Call at least one week in advance of your trial date.
What if I need a postponement?
If you have good cause to delay your trial date, you may ask the Judge for an adjournment. You must do so in writing at least one week before the trial date. The Judge will then decide whether or not to grant your request.