What is an "Initial Appearance"?
An Initial Appearance is the first court date before the judge on your citation. It is the date and time shown at the top-center of your ticket. In some places, this hearing is called an arraignment. The main purpose of an Initial Appearance is for you to enter a plea.
Initial Appearances on adult and traffic tickets are always held on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 4:00 PM in the Monona Public Library Municipal Room. Cases are called in the order of arrival and usually take about 5 to 10 minutes once your case has been called. If you come late to court, there is no guarantee that you will be seen. Please note that adult and traffic hearings are open to the public.
At your Initial Appearance, the judge will inform you of your charge(s) and possible penalties. At that time, it is expected that you will enter a plea of GUILTY, NO CONTEST, or NOT GUILTY. Remember that a citation is just an ordinance violation, not a criminal matter. The only way you can go to jail because of an ordinance violation is to be given a fine that you are capable of paying, and then not paying the fine.
If you plead GUILTY or NO CONTEST, the judge will find you guilty and give you a penalty. Upon a plea of GUILTY or NO CONTEST, you are waiving your right to a trial, your right to call witnesses to testify at that trial, your own right to testify, and the right to appeal the decision of the Municipal Court.
If you plead NOT GUILTY, you will be scheduled for a Pretrial Telephone Conference with the City Attorney (prosecutor) at a later date. If you are unable to come to a resolution with the City Attorney, your case will be scheduled for trial.
If you need more time to consider your options or seek advice, you may request a continuance. This request can be made before or during court.
Am I required to attend my Initial Appearance?
Most Initial Appearances are optional, but some are mandatory (for example, OWI-related citations or citations for which restitution has been requested). Your citation will say in the top left corner if it is mandatory or not.
If your citation indicates a MANDATORY appearance...
If your citation indicates a mandatory appearance, then you MUST appear in person on the scheduled court date. The only exception to this is if you plan to dispute the citation. If you intend to plead NOT GUILTY, you may enter a plea in writing before the court date.
If your citation does NOT indicate a mandatory appearance...
If your citation does NOT indicate a mandatory appearance, then you have 4 options:
1. Appear in court on the date shown on your ticket and enter a plea in person.
2. Enter a written plea before your court date (see below for more information on written pleas).
3. Pay your citation before court. If you pay before court, a plea of NO CONTEST will be entered on your behalf, and you will be found guilty on the date shown on your ticket.
4. Pay your citation after court. If you do not appear on the date shown on your ticket and do not enter a written plea, you will be found guilty by default and given 60 days to pay.
How do I enter a written plea?
If your ticket does not indicate a mandatory appearance OR if you plan to contest (dispute) your citation, you may enter a plea in writing using this form. Your plea must be received by the court prior to your Initial Appearance date. If you submit a plea in writing, you do NOT have to attend the Initial Appearance. Pleas may be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to (608) 222-9225. They may also be mailed or delivered in person to:
Monona Municipal Court
5211 Schluter Rd.
Monona, WI 53716
If you enter a GUILTY or NO CONTEST plea in writing, the clerk will contact you the day or two following your Initial Appearance date to inform you of the judge’s decision. Upon a plea of guilty or no contest, you are waiving your right to a trial, your right to call witnesses to testify at that trial, your own right to testify, and the right to appeal the decision of the Municipal Court.
If you enter a NOT GUILTY plea in writing, the clerk will schedule you for a Pretrial Telephone Conference with the City Attorney and mail you a notice with instructions. If you included an email with your plea, the clerk will also email you a copy of the notice.
OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Do I have to pay my ticket before or during court?
You may pay your ticket before, during, or after court. If your ticket is not paid before or during court, you will be given 60 days to pay after your court date.
Will I be appointed a public defender?
No, public defenders are only appointed in criminal cases. Municipal Court only handles traffic and ordinance violations. However, you are welcome to hire a private attorney at your own expense.
Should I bring anything to my Initial Appearance?
Generally speaking, no. If you were cited for operating without a license, no insurance, illegal tint, or failure to register your vehicle and have since fixed the issue, please bring proof of this to your hearing. Otherwise, there is nothing that you are required to bring.
What if I need to reschedule?
If you need to reschedule your court date, you must contact the court clerk at least one business day before your scheduled appearance. You may call the clerk at (608) 216-7422 or email them at email@example.com. You will only be granted one adjournment of your Initial Appearance.
Please note that Initial Appearances are always held on Tuesdays at 4:00 PM. If you are unable to adjust your schedule to accommodate a physical court appearance, you are welcome to submit a plea in writing. Please see above for more information about written pleas.
How can I request accommodations for a disability?
If you need any sort of accommodation for a disability, please contact the court clerk at (608) 216-7422 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am not fluent in English. Will I be given an interpreter?
Yes, the court will provide you an interpreter via telephone if you do not have anyone who can interpret for you. Please contact the court clerk at (608) 216-7422 or at email@example.com before your court date to request an interpreter. You may also bring a friend or family member to interpret for you.
Para hispanohablantes: El secretario del tribunal habla español. Si necesita un intérprete hispanohablante, por favor contáctese con el secretario del tribunal antes de su fecha de corte al (608) 216-7422 o por email al firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why is my child scheduled for adult court when they are under 18?
Traffic citations and adult municipal citations are held together. If your child is at least 17 and charged with a municipal violation, or any age and charged with a traffic violation, then their case will be heard in adult and traffic court instead of juvenile court.
Can I bring someone with me?
Absolutely. Adult and traffic hearings are open to the public, meaning that anyone can come into the courtroom to observe. You are welcome to bring a friend, partner, family member, or other support person with you to court. If you need support or assistance when speaking with the judge, you may have one person come forward with you when your case is called.
I missed my Initial Appearance. Can I get a new hearing?
If you miss your Initial Appearance, a plea of NO CONTEST will be entered on your behalf, and you will be found guilty by default. At this point, the case is closed. The only way to obtain a new hearing is to successfully petition to reopen your case.
To request that the court reopen your case, you must submit a request in writing to the court. The request must include your full name, your citation number(s), and the reason why you did not attend your Initial Appearance. If the prosecutor opposes your request to reopen, you may be required to attend a hearing on the matter. Reopening requests may be submitted via email to email@example.com or via fax at (608) 222-9225. They may also be mailed or delivered in person to:
Monona Municipal Court
5211 Schluter Rd.
Monona, WI 53716
I use a different name or address than the one listed on my citation. What should I do?
If the name or address on your citation is misspelled or incorrect, or if you have moved, please notify the court clerk to get it updated.
In the case of a chosen name that differs from your legal name, please let the clerk know when you check in or, if applicable, note it on any written correspondence to the court. While the ticket must be filed under your legal name, the court will make every effort to send any notices under your chosen name and refer to you correctly during your hearing.