LONG BEACH MUNICIPAL COURT

REPRESENTING YOURSELF IN MUNICIPAL COURT

 

The information provided in this section is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of legal counsel.

Some people choose to hire a lawyer to represent them in Municipal Court.  However, some people decide to represent themselves in court.  You have the right to represent yourself in court.

If you choose to represent yourself in court, you may hear or see the phrase “pro se” or hear yourself described as a “pro se litigant.”  The phrase “pro se” is a Latin phrase which means “appearing for one’s self.”  People who represent themselves in court without the aid of an attorney are known as “pro se” litigants.

If you choose to represent yourself in court, please know the judges and court employees cannot give you legal advice.  You will be expected to know and to follow the rules of court and the rules of evidence. 

            If you are financially unable to hire an attorney and believe that you require the assistance of an attorney with your case, you may ask the court to appoint an attorney to defend you at no cost to you.  The proper time to ask for a court-appointed lawyer is at the time of your first appearance in court which is referred to as your “arraignment.”  The court will provide you with a form which you will complete at the time of your arraignment.  Based on the information provided and the nature of the charge, the judge will make a decision concerning your request for a court-appointed counsel.  The completion of the application does not guarantee that a lawyer will be appointed to defend you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

I do not know when my court date is.  How can I find out?  You may contact the Municipal Court Clerk’s office for information about the date and time of your trial. 

I missed my court date.  What should I do?  You should contact the Municipal Court Clerk’s office as soon as possible. 

If I am convicted, what is the potential penalty range for my charge?  The Judge will review the penalty ranges of your particular charge(s) with you at the time of your arraignment.  In municipal courts in Mississippi, unless the penalty range is set at a lower amount by statute or ordinance, the penalty range will not exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) in fines and/or six (6) months in jail.

Can I discuss my case with the judge before my trial?  No.

Can the court clerks give me legal advice?  No.

Am I required to testify during my trial?  No.  You may choose to remain silent and your silence will not be held against you.

If I choose to testify in my trial, will I be allowed to do so?  Yes.  However, if you choose to testify, the City’s Prosecutor will be given an opportunity to cross-examine you.

I want to show the judge some documents or photographs.  Do I need to bring these to my trial?  Yes.  You should also consider bringing extra copies of your documents in the event the Court retains your documents as evidence in your case.

I have a witness that I want to testify during my trial.  Do I need to bring this witness to my trial?  Yes.  If you require a witness to be subpoenaed, you should contact the Municipal Court Clerk at least ten (10) business days before your trial date. 

Do I need a lawyer?  The decision to retain a lawyer is an important decision.  Some charges may result in incarceration or monetary fines.  If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you can ask the Judge to appoint a lawyer to defend you at no cost to you. 

What is a court-appointed lawyer?  A court-appointed lawyer is an attorney that is assigned to defend your case at no cost to you. 

How do I request a court-appointed lawyer?  You may ask the court clerk or the Judge for an application for a court-appointed lawyer. 

If I request a court-appointed lawyer, will the Judge automatically appoint a lawyer to defend me?  No.  The Judge will make a determination on a case-by-case basis depending on the information you provide in the application and depending on the charges you are facing.

I need more time to prepare for my trial.  What should I do?  If, prior to your trial date, you find that you cannot appear on the scheduled date, you may file a Motion for Continuance.  A Motion for Continuance is a request that the case be rescheduled for another date.  The form you need to file is available at the Clerk’s office.  The request should be made at least five (5) working days before your trial date.  You are NOT excused from your trial date until the Judge has made a decision on your request for a continuance.  A motion (or request) for a continuance which is made on the date of the trial is likely to be denied.

What should I wear to court?  You should dress appropriately for your court appearance.  Shorts, tank tops, exposed midriffs, hats, and sunglasses are not acceptable attire for court. 

What time should I arrive at the courthouse for my trial?  You should arrive at the time stated on your notice.  It is recommended that you arrive a few minutes early so that you become familiar with the courtroom and the location of places within or near the courtroom (witness stand, counsel table, bench, bathrooms, etc.).

 

If I am representing myself, will I have an opportunity to discuss my case with the City Prosecutor before trial?  Yes. 

If the City Prosecutor offers me a plea agreement that I do not like, am I required to accept it?  No.  You may reject any plea offer made to you by the City Prosecutor and proceed to your trial.

If the City Prosecutor and I reach a plea agreement, is the Judge required to follow the terms of the plea agreement?  No.  Any plea agreement between you and the City Prosecutor is not binding on the Judge.  The Judge may reject all or part of the plea agreement. 

If I plea guilty or if I am found guilty, when are my fines due?  Fines and court costs are due at the time of sentencing.  If you are unable to pay your fines in full at that time, the Judge will discuss options that may be available to help you resolve your obligations to the court.  These could include community service, probation, in-court review, or other options.

Is community service available to help me resolve my obligations to the court?  Yes, in many cases.  The best time to ask the Judge about community service options is at the time of your sentencing

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