Under Kansas Law, a person can be brought to trial only after a complaint or traffic citation has been filed. The complaint or citation is a document that outlines what the person is charged with, and states that the action is unlawful. The person being charged is referred to as the defendant.
As a defendant, you have a right to inspect the complaint or citation before trial and have it read to you.
The court process can have many stages. They are, in order:
At arraignment, you are given an opportunity to appear in court and enter a plea.
You may enter a plea of:
- Guilty: You admit to committing the act charged, that the act is unlawful, and that you have no defense for the act. In most minor traffic cases, a guilty plea and fine will be accepted online or through the mail.
- Not guilty: You deny guilt, and the city must prove, in trial, the charges are true beyond a reasonable doubt. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
- No contest: You do not wish to contest the city's charge. Upon a plea of no contest, the judge will enter a finding of guilty and order a fine, jail time or other sentence. A plea of no contest is not an admission of fault and cannot be used against you in a civil suit for damages.
In all Municipal Court cases, you have a right to an attorney. When charged with an offense that may result in jail time, you must decide whether to proceed with or without an attorney. If you want an attorney but cannot afford one, the judge will appoint an attorney after finding that you do not have the financial means to hire one.
Many criminal cases are concluded without a trial through a plea agreement or diversion program. The prosecutor has sole discretion to offer a plea agreement or diversion.
You agree to plead guilty or no contest to certain charges and the prosecutor agrees to dismiss others. Sometimes a prosecutor may amend the complaint to a lesser charge or be more lenient on sentencing recommendations if you agree to plead guilty.
- The prosecutor cannot initiate plea negotiations. The prosecutor has no obligation to discuss or negotiate your case.
- In plea negotiations, a prosecutor will consider the effect of the criminal offense on the victim, your criminal history and the seriousness of the crime.
Diversion is a contract between you and the prosecutor, whereby you agree to comply with certain conditions and agree to be supervised by a probation officer for a period of time, usually one year. Other conditions may include attending classes, counseling, restitution or a no-contact order with the victim(s).
- By agreeing to the conditions of diversion, you give up the right to a speedy trial, the right to confront witnesses and the right to present evidence.
- There is a diversion fee which is determined by the prosecutor.
- Any evaluation, education or treatment programs required as a part of the agreement will be at your own expense.
- You will not be allowed to consume alcohol or drugs while on diversion and will be required to submit to random testing.
If you successfully complete all conditions, the charges against you will be dismissed. If you fail to comply with a condition, the diversion agreement may be terminated, the charges against you immediately reinstated, and a trial will be held on the police reports alone.
Under our American system of justice, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a trial, the defendant has entered a plea of not guilty and the burden of proof is on the city. Jury trials are not held in Municipal Court. A judge hears all testimony, reaches a verdict and imposes the sentence.
- In all court cases, you have a right to an attorney. If you do not choose to be represented by an attorney, you may act as your own attorney. This is called appearing pro se.
At the trial, the prosecutor will begin by calling witnesses to testify against you. After each prosecution witness testifies, you have a right to cross-examine each witness.
- Your cross-examination must be in the form of questions; you are not allowed to argue with a witness. This is not the time for you to tell your side of the story. That opportunity comes later in the trial.
After the prosecution has presented its case, you have the right to call witnesses to testify on your behalf.
- You have the right to have the court issue subpoenas for witnesses to ensure their appearance at trial.
- You have the right to testify, and you have a constitutional right not to testify. Choosing not to testify will not be used against you in determining guilt or innocence; however, if you do testify, the prosecutor will have the right to cross-examine you.
If the judge enters a verdict of guilty the penalty will be announced at that time or after a pre-sentence investigation.
- Jail time. All persons sentenced to jail time are sent to the Johnson County Adult Detention in Olathe.
- Fines and fees. The amount assessed is determined by ordinance and state statute. Fines may be affected by the facts and circumstances of the case.
- Fines for most traffic offenses do not exceed $500
- Fines for city ordinance violations generally do not exceed $2,500.
- There may be court costs and other fees added to the fine amount.
- Probation. During this conditional release period, you will be supervised by a probation officer and will be required to meet certain conditions. If you fail to meet any of those conditions, you may be required by the judge to serve jail time and/or pay fines.
- House arrest. Electronic supervision in your own home.
- Community Weekend Intervention Program.
- Community Service. Supervised work using several community agencies.
- Restitution. Money you are required to pay to the victim based on the crime committed.
Appealing a Conviction
Anyone found guilty in Municipal Court has a right to appeal the conviction to the Johnson County District Court.
To appeal, you must post bond and file a proper notice with a Municipal Court clerk. You have 14 days after a conviction to file this notice, which can be picked up from the Court Clerk's Office at the W. Jack Sanders Justice Center, 12400 Foster. You must post an appearance bond and pay a filing fee.
In District Court, you are entitled to a trial de novo, or a whole new trial as though the Municipal Court trial had never taken place. Your appearance bond receipt sets forth the time and place for the first appearance in District Court. If you fail to appear at that time, or any other time during the course of the appeal, your appearance bond will be forfeited and the case will be returned to the Municipal Court for execution of the fine and sentence that were initially imposed.
Expungement means the case information will be considered "erased," and the public will not have access to the information, except in certain situations.
- Most city ordinance convictions can be expunged after three (3) years.
- A five (5) year wait period is required for convictions of leaving the scene, driving on a suspended driver's license, failure to maintain motor vehicle liability insurance, and for first (1st) driving under the influence (DUI) convictions.
- A ten (10) year wait period is required for second (2nd) or subsequent driving under the influence (DUI) convictions.
The wait period does not begin until you have completed your sentence, or have been discharged from probation, parole or suspended sentence.
Once you have petitioned for expungement, the court will set a hearing date and send a notice to the prosecutor.
Anyone who has relevant information about you may testify at the hearing. The court may look into your background and will be given access to any reports or records including your criminal history.
At the hearing, your case may be expunged if the court finds:
- You have not been convicted of a felony in the last two years and no criminal proceedings are currently pending or being instituted.
- Your behavior and circumstances warrant it.
- Expungement is consistent with the public welfare.
Once an order of expungement is issued, you will be treated as though you were never convicted of a crime, except in certain circumstances:
- You are convicted of another crime. In that case, the conviction that was expunged can be viewed as a prior conviction at sentencing.
- You apply for admission, or for an order of reinstatement, to practice law in this state.
- You apply for employment with a criminal justice agency, private detective agency, private patrol agency, or with the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
- You apply for a job with the Kansas Lottery or Racing commissions.
- You apply for a commercial driver's license.
- Other circumstances as determined by K.S.A. 12-4516(c).
The filing fee of $100.00 is due at the time you file your petition for expungement.