Cases are docketed for arraignment at the next available court session. All non-jury court session are preceded by an arraignment video followed by a plea negotiation session with a prosecutor for those defendants choosing to plead no contest or guilty. Court sessions begin with video and in-person arraignments, followed by pre-trial motions, and cases set for trial.
Jury sessions are held throughout the year.
The Municipal Court of Norman holds three regular dockets of court each week on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 3:00 p.m. In addition, the Court holds a non-traffic juvenile docket most Wednesdays at 8:00 am.
An arraignment is a court proceeding at which a defendant is formally advised of the charges against them and is asked to enter a plea to the charges. Generally, an arraignment will be a defendant’s initial appear before the judge.
When each defendant's name is called, s/he comes to the bench. The judge will inquire if s/he understood the rights and procedures explained on the arraignment video. If s/he did not, the judge will explain them to the defendant's understanding. The complaint, which is simply a copy of the traffic or non-traffic citation that the defendant has previously received and charges the defendant with a violation of the city ordinance, is then read. After reading the complaint, if the defendant does not understand the charge, the judge will go into a further explanation.
The judge then advises the defendant the maximum punishment that can be imposed upon a conviction, plea of guilty or plea of no contest.
Every defendant charged with a violation of a city ordinance has a right to be represented by an attorney. If the defendant has an attorney, the attorney can be present during the proceedings and any subsequent proceedings in the case.
When the defendant appears before the bench, he will be asked to enter one of three pleas if he has not previously entered one. The defendant may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere (no contest).
If a not guilty plea is entered, an appearance bond will be set and a trial date assigned. If the penalty for the violation exceeds five hundred dollars (500.00), excluding court costs, or carries jail time, or both, the defendant will have a right to a jury trial. The defendant may waive that right and, if s/he does, their case will be set on a non-jury trial docket.
They will then go to the counter in the lobby, post the bond with the clerk, and be released to return on the trial date.
If the defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere (no contest), the judge will impose punishment. Whatever fines, fees, or court costs are imposed must be taken care of at the front counter with one of the clerks. Once s/he has done that, s/he is then free to leave and the case will be over.
The only significant difference between a guilty plea and a no contest plea is that a no contest plea is not considered an admission by the defendant if he is sued in a civil lawsuit arising from the facts of the city case. In other words, a no contest plea cannot be used against the defendant at a civil trial. On the other hand, a guilty plea is an admission on the part of the defendant and may be used against him in a civil lawsuit. For all other purposes, a guilty plea and a no contest plea are recognized as the same.
A trial is the formal examination of evidence before a judge or a jury in order to determine a person's innocence or guilt by due process of law.
At the trial, the city is required to present evidence that the defendant was in violation of the city ordinance prior to the defendant presenting any evidence.
The city will call their first witness and will ask questions necessary to bring out all the facts the witness has knowledge of concerning the case. After the city attorney has asked questions, the defendant will have a right to cross-examine the witness. During cross-examination, the defendant may not testify or argue with the witness; s/he may only ask questions to elicit answers from the witness. The defendant may only ask for information that deals with the issues of the violation of the ordinance. After the defendant has completed his examination and the city has completed its examination of the first witness, the city will call their next witness. The same procedure as to examination is followed with all of the witnesses called by the city.
After the city has called all their witnesses, they will rest their case. At that time, the defendant has a right to present evidence. S/He may call witnesses and if so, s/he will examine them first and the city attorney will have the right to cross-examine them after the defendant's examination. During the defendant's examination of the witness, their questions need to be stated in such a way that the witness will give the facts in their answer.
The defendant may also testify although s/he is not required to do so and it will not be held against them if s/he decides not to testify. If the defendant testifies, s/he will tell what happened in their own words. The city attorney will have the right to cross-examine them and s/he is required to answer the city attorney's questions.
After the defendant has completed their case and the city has completed their case, the court will make a decision. If the defendant is found not guilty, the case is over and the defendant's appearance bond will be refunded. If the defendant is found guilty, the court will assess punishment not to exceed the maximum authorized under the city ordinance plus court costs.
If the defendant is found guilty, s/he has a right to appeal and receive a new trial. In order to appeal, the defendant must post an appeal bond as set by the court. The defendant will then have a new trial before a district judge who will make a determination of his innocence or guilt. In the new trial, the judge will make a finding on what is presented and is not bound by any finding of the Municipal Court. If the defendant is found innocent, their appeal bond will be refunded and the case is over. If the defendant is found guilty, the district judge will set the fine and costs. The amount of fine and costs may be more or may be less than what the Municipal Court imposes. If found guilty in the second trial, the defendant has a right to appeal on the record to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
If the defendant feels s/he needs to speak with an assistant city attorney concerning his court appearance, s/he should consider the following:
- The assistant city attorney is the prosecuting attorney for the City of Norman. S/He does not represent the defendant and cannot give the defendant legal advice or advise them how to plead. For this type of assistance the defendant must contact a private attorney.
- The assistant city attorney does not determine the defendant's guilt or innocence; this is a function of the judge. However, s/he may be able to recommend a sentence based on the facts of the defendant's case and their prior record. The assistant city attorney will have a comprehensive record of the defendant's offense history.
- Deferred Sentences - A deferred sentence may only be recommended in cases where the defendant has no prior offenses on his record. If a deferred sentence is recommended by the assistant city attorney and granted by the judge, the defendant will still have to pay fees and court costs.
- The assistant city attorney cannot give time to pay on the fine, fee or the costs, only the judge can grant this extension. The defendant needs to be prepared to pay any fines, fees and costs he may be assessed at the time he appears in court. Also, the assistant city attorney cannot give the defendant a continuance on his court date. A continuance can only be granted by the court clerk.
The majority of all questions can be addressed on the defendant's court date. To meet with the assistant city attorney, the defendant should come to the Municipal Court at 3:00 p.m. on their scheduled court date and inform the bailiff inside the courtroom that s/he would like to speak with the assistant city attorney. If you wish to speak to the City Attorney prior to your court date, please contact their office at (405) 217-7700.
PROCEDURES FOR JUVENILE OFFENDERS IN NON-TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS
In 1992 an Oklahoma law went into effect which allows a Municipal Court to assume jurisdiction from District Court of cases involving children under 18 years of age charged with violating non-traffic municipal ordinances. As a result of this law the City of Norman has created the Juvenile Offender Program. The goal of the program is to reduce juvenile crime in Norman.
The juvenile defendants must appear within five days of the date of the violation for the purpose of scheduling a conference session with an assistant city attorney and a subsequent court date for appearance before a judge. In some violations, the defendant may elect to pay an administrative fine and costs and waive his or her right to court. (See table below) At the conference session, the assistant city attorney and the defendant agree on the mitigating factors that the defendant will do before their scheduled court date. These factors may include community service, attending a First Offenders Program, drug evaluations, drug testing, and letters of apology to parents and victims.
Juvenile Administrative Payments
Violation - 1st Offence / 2nd Offense
- Curfew - $285.00/ $335.00
- Tobacco - $185.00/ $285.00
- Littering - $285.00/ $335.00
Upon the defendant's appearance in court, the defendant may be fined or placed on probation depending on the nature of the violation, the defendant's past record, and the completion of the mitigating factors.
The program allows the community to become involved in youth offenses at an early stage and have a positive impact on the outcome. The Juvenile Offender Program is intended to be beneficial to the youth and serve as deterrent to future and continued undesirable activities.
Surrender on Warrant
Citizens with outstanding warrants may surrender any day Monday through Friday, prior to 3:00 p.m.