Initial Appearance Procedures
When you are issued a ticket, the upper left of your citation states, “You are Notified to Pay or Appear,” and whether your appearance is required. This is called an Initial Appearance.
If your appearance IS REQUIRED and you do not appear you may face further sanctions, including a summons, a warrant, increased fines and possible incarceration. You want to avoid this.
If your appearance is NOT required, you may avoid court by submitting a court-provided Plea Sheet (see plea options below) and paying the deposit noted in the upper right-hand face of your citation(s). You may pay in person at City Hall, by mail to the address on your citation, or through the City’s website: www.cityofcolumbuswi.com > Government > Court > Payment Information > Pay Online. Defendants who do not plead will have a No Contest plea entered on their behalf and be found Guilty by default.
With City Hall open to the public, Columbus Municipal Court has returned to in-person hearings. You are to arrive at the time and place stated on your citation, be screened, and seated until the Court Clerk calls you to come forward to face the judge. Courtroom conduct and safety protocols, including face coverings, must be followed. Adult (age 17 and older, including age 16 for traffic) proceedings are public, begin at 2 PM and may be televised. Juvenile (under age 17) proceedings begin at 3:30 PM, are closed to the public and REQUIRE parent or guardian to be present.
You will be asked to plead to the offense(s) with which you have been charged. Before pleading, you will be advised of the charge(s) against you, the range of penalties, the right to request a Continuance so you may consult others, the right to retain an attorney at your own expense, the right to request a substitute judge (which must be in writing within 7 days of initial appearance), and the right to a 6-person jury trial if facing OWI/PAC/OCS charges - which request must be made in writing and the fee paid for within 10 days of entering plea. Failure to do so waives the right to jury trial on appeal.
Your three plea options are:
- Not Guilty – Your citation(s) will not be resolved at Initial Appearance. The Court Clerk will provide you with instructions for contacting the Municipal Attorney to conduct a mandatory Pre-Trial, typically by phone, and you may leave. At that pre-trial you will explain why you feel you are not guilty. The Municipal Attorney may then petition the Court to amend the citation(s) to something more fitting, or even dismiss the charge(s). If the Judge accepts the pre-trial result a judgement to that effect will be entered and the matter resolved. If the Judge does not agree with the proposed amendment(s), you will be scheduled for a bench trial (no jury involved) before the Municipal Judge at a future date. The judge’s ruling may be appealed to Circuit Court if all parties are notified in writing within 20 days of judgement.
- Guilty – You accept responsibility for your actions, or
- No Contest – Similar to guilty, but you’re not admitting personal liability – which could have been used against you in litigation where bodily injury or property damage is claimed.
In both Guilty and No Contest pleas you will have the opportunity to make a statement, after which the Judge will review your case, including your statement, the officer’s statement, and any prior record before rendering judgement. Forfeitures are due immediately. However, you may be granted time to pay, or alternate arrangements if indigent. Defendants must notify the Court in writing within 5 days of any change in address while their case is pending, at 105 N Dickason Blvd. or firstname.lastname@example.org.