Pleading Not Guilty. If you plead not guilty your case will be scheduled for a pretrial conference. If you enter a plea of not guilty prior to your initial appearance court date you will be scheduled for a pretrial conference on the morning of the fourth Tuesday of the month. If you enter a plea of not guilty at your initial appearance court date you will be put in contact with the town's attorney during court. The purpose of a pretrial conference is to provide an opportunity for you and the town attorney (prosecutor) to resolve the case without going to trial. If it is not resolved, you will be notified of a trial date by mail.
You have the right to a trial in Municipal Court. If you take your case to trial, the burden of proof is on the town. The town has to prove the case by evidence that is "clear, satisfactory and convincing." After a trial, you will be found either guilty or not guilty. If you are found guilty, a penalty will be imposed. The forfeiture can either be higher or lower than the deposit amount on your citation. If you are found not guilty at trial, the case will be dismissed.
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your trial, you have the right to appeal the Municipal Court's decision to the Dane County Circuit Court. The town also has the right to appeal. An appeal can be on the record, which is a review of the transcript of your Municipal Court trial. It can also be a new trial to a circuit court judge without a jury or it can be a new trial in circuit court before a six-person jury. Refer to Appeal.
Pleading Guilty or No Contest. If you appear personally, by telephone or videoconference and plead guilty or no contest, the court must find you guilty and impose a forfeiture. If you plead guilty, you are admitting to the charges against you. You will be found guilty and penalties will be imposed. However, if you ask, you will be given an opportunity to briefly discuss the circumstances leading to your arrest, your financial circumstances and anything else that is relevant to your case or its disposition.
The Difference Between a Guilty and a No Contest Plea. A guilty plea is taken to mean you admit that you committed the charged offense. A no contest plea means you neither admit or nor deny the charge but because you are not denying the charge the court is required by law to find you guilty. The difference between the two pleas is significant only if the incident which brings you to court resulted in an injury or damage to someone else's person or property - arising, for example, out of an automobile accident or a fight. If the person who sustained the injury or damage were to sue you for compensation in the circuit court, your plea of guilty court be used against you in the law suit. That is the only legal difference between the guilty and no contest pleas.
Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) If you are charged with OWI, you have the immediate right to request a jury trial in Dane County Circuit Court. A written request along with the required fees must be made with ten (10) business days of entry of a Not Guilty plea. NOTE: Any citations or complaints arising from the same OWI charge are also transferred to circuit court. Refer to Operating While Under The Influence (OWI).