First Appearance in court


Rules of Behavior.   The judge likes to run an informal court, but it is still court.  Everyone is expected to behave appropriately:                  
  • Turn off your cell phone.      
  •  No hats will be worn in court.
  •  Dress appropriately - no pajamas; don’t display cleavage; pull up your pants.
  •  The judge is to be addressed as “Your Honor” or “Judge.”
  •  Be polite
What Happens in court?    You will tell the court how you want to handle the case.  You will do that by entering a plea.  You have your choice among three pleas: “Not Guilty,” “Guilty” and “No Contest.”  The court will explain the meaning of the pleas, but briefly a Not Guilty plea challenges the claim that you broke the law.  A Guilty plea admits that you broke law.  A No Contest plea takes no position on whether you broke the law, but states you don’t want to fight about.   The effect of a “Not Guilty” plea is that the case will be set to a meeting with the City Attorney.  On a Guilty or No Contest Plea, you will be found guilty without a trial. 

Do I have to come to court?  

No, but you might not like what happens if you don’t.

If you do not want to attend your first appearance, you can do one of three things:

  • You can simply pay the ticket before coming to court. You will be convicted, assessed the forfeiture on the face of the citation, your payment will be applied and that will be the end of it in most cases. Some cases involve orders beyond a forfeiture, such as OWI , Underage Alcohol Violations or non-traffic cases involving restitution (damage to someone else’s property where they have made a request to be reimbursed for the loss).
  • If you don’t come to court and don’t pay, we will wait about two weeks and then enter a plea of “no contest” for you and find you guilty. You get the money penalty written on the face of the citation. You will automatically have 30 days from that date to pay. If the fine is more than $100, you will be given 60 days to pay.
  • You can send in a letter with a copy of your citation, pleading “Not Guilty.” We will mail you notice of a date to come back to court to meet the City Attorney for a pretrial conference.  Mail the letter to Municipal Court, Room 119, 800 Center Street, Racine, Wisconsin 53403.

What if I want a trial?   You plead “not guilty.”  You can come to court to plead “not guilty” or you can simply mail in a letter with a copy of your citation, pleading “Not Guilty.”   We will mail you a court date to speak with the City Attorney.
What if I want point reduction?  You will have to come to court and ask for it, so that the case can be evaluated. You can do that either at the first appearance with the judge or at a pretrial conference with the City Attorney.  Entering a written plea of “not guilty” and having that talk at the pretrial often involves a shorter wait for the case to be called.  Often if you are granted reduced points, the amount of the money penalty will go up.
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