August 17, 2022
In Colorado, Municipal or city courts handle offenses involving city laws that occur within the city. Typically, municipal courts handle minor offenses like traffic infringements, dog leash-law infractions, littering, abandoned vehicles, and noise violations.
Have you received a ticket or summons to a municipal court in Colorado? You may be wondering what to expect and how best to proceed.
To help you understand the Colorado municipal court process, we’ve included a guide to commonly asked questions below.
Colorado Municipal Courts FAQ
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Colorado municipal courts and your rights.
Answers address matters of concern leading up to a court date, during your time in court, what to do when you can’t make it or might be late, and when an attorney might be able to help.
Do I still have to go to court after paying my ticket?
It depends. There are certain types of tickets you can pay online without having to go to court. You should review the instructions on your ticket closely to determine requirements and make sure you pay your ticket on time. If you don’t pay the ticket on time, you will definitely be required to go to court.
Do I still have to go to court after showing proof of insurance?
If you were given a “No Proof of Insurance” citation and it was the only charge listed, you have the court date removed if you can show insurance that was valid on the day of your offense.
What should I expect at court?
Make sure you arrive at least 10 minutes early to give yourself enough time to go through security. Plan on being at court for up to two hours. Then, you may go through the following processes:
- Watch a video explaining your rights.
- Meet with the District Attorney, who may submit an initial plea offer (that you are not required to accept).
- Appear in front of the judge to either submit a plea or request time to find a lawyer.
- Receive either a notice of your next court date or paperwork with final sentence information with fines, costs, and fees.
What if I’m late?
You may wind up with a warrant issued for your arrest out if you show up late to a court date or miss your appearance entirely. Whether or not a warrant is issued is up to the judge.
Can I reschedule my court date?
You may request a new court date by submitting a Motion (JDF 76) or letter to the court. You can submit your request in person or via mail.
Do I have to pay court costs and fees?
Yes. This amount is not included in the fine and surcharge listed on your ticket, but may be listed on your final sentencing paperwork.
How long do I have to pay the fine and fees?
Fines and court costs must be paid on the same day as your court appearance. If you do not pay your fees on time, you will be charged late fees and receive a default judgment against your driver’s license.
Can I hire a lawyer?
You can hire a lawyer to guide you through the process and inform you of your rights at any time — but soon is better than later.
Do You Need a Lawyer for a Municipal Court Case?
Particularly if you are dealing with a low-level offense like a traffic violation or misdemeanor, it can be tempting to go it alone. However, more often than not, this is a mistake. The process of appearing at municipal courts can be distressing and very confusing. Unlike everyone else involved in your case, you don’t have experience with the process. This puts you at a significant disadvantage.
Any kind of offense can come with tough penalties, even in municipal court. Possible penalties include:
- Heavy fines
- Jail sentences of up to six months
- License suspension
- Community service
In addition, being found guilty may result in a permanent stain on your criminal record. A criminal record can have a serious impact on your ability to find a job, apply for housing, and pursue secondary education.
A lawyer may seem like an expensive option, but going to municipal court without one can end up being a whole lot more expensive. Your attorney will be familiar with Colorado municipal courts and be able to guide you through the process while ensuring your rights are being protected.
Remember that paying a ticket is an admission of guilt, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a lawyer to learn how to fight the charges.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020 and is Lead Counsel rated.