What is a Misdemeanor Trial?
Going to Court
WHAT IS A MISDEMEANOR TRIAL?
The Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction over misdemeanor
offenses generally punishable by a fine and/or a jail term. At trial,
the prosecution, or Deputy Attorney General on behalf of the State, will
call witnesses and introduce evidence to try to prove that the defendant
is guilty of the crime with which he/she is charged.
A fundamental principle of our system of justice is that every person
charged with a crime is presumed innocent. The prosecution has the burden
of proving that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt throughout
the trial. A reasonable doubt is not a mere possibility or imaginary doubt,
but a doubt that prevents an individual from being firmly convinced of
a defendant’s guilt.
The party, or the alleged victim who brought the charge(s) against the
defendant, will be noticed to appear and will testify on behalf of the
State at the trial. For more information about presenting witnesses, please
click here. If the defendant wants the Court to send "notices" to
the defendant’s witnesses to appear, he/she must notify the Clerk’s Office
at least ten (10) days before trial. If the defendant believes the witnesses
may not appear, he/she may ask the Court to issue a "subpoena." The Court
can also issue a subpoena for documents or other evidence that the defendant
may need for his/her defense and which is not in their possession. The
request for subpoenas must be made with the Clerk’s Office no later than
ten (10) days before the date of trial. Failure to respond to a subpoena
is grounds for arrest.
At trial, the defendant has the right to introduce evidence of his/her
innocence and to have witnesses testify on their behalf. It is the defendant’s
responsibility to have his/her witnesses and evidence with them on the
day of trial. The defendant has a right to testify on his/her own behalf
or to remain silent. If the defendant chooses to testify, the Judge may
consider any statement made in determining the defendant’s guilt or innocence.
If the defendant exercises his/her right not to testify, it will not be
held against him/her.
GOING TO COURT
On the scheduled day of trial, the Defendant and all
witnesses should appear at the time indicated on your "Notice to Appear"
and check in with the Bailiff. The Defendant and all witnesses should
bring any photographs, diagrams, reports or any other exhibits with them
on the day scheduled for trial.