So, you failed to appear at the first trial like I've mentioned in a previous section. You pleaded guilty, and explained the circumstances, but the judge still found your guilty and gave you some points. What do you do now?
Our court system is great, if a lower court finds you guilty you can appeal to a higher court to have your case re-heard. In traffic cases this means that your case will be moved from the district court to the circuit court. Attending circuit court is a real experience and it should be a requirement in schools. Here you get to see the real criminals of the world, the ones out raping and killing people. You will probably also see a lot of DWI cases as well. Be warned however, the circuit court is under no obligation to adhere to the sentence you received in the lower court and has the option of increasing both the points and the fine.
When you leave the district court after receiving points, ask the cashier for a form to appeal your case. In Maryland, there is an $80 filing fee that must accompany this request. Keeping a clean driving record is not an inexpensive task!
When going to the circuit court, be sure to have an attorney present. There will be a prosecuting attorney representing the State, so be prepared. A prosecuting attorney can offer you a few advantages and a few disadvantages. If you pleaded guilty in the lower court, you will probably have to plead guilty in the circuit court. Remember, your testimony from the district court can be used as evidence in the circuit court. If you plead not guilty, a prosecuting attorney will cross-examine your testimony and try and make you look like a lying fool.
Your lawyer can perform all of the following on your behalf so you won't be required to argue with the prosecuting attorney. You hear and read about plea bargining all the time, now is your chance. You can work out a plea that will make both you and the state happy. In most cases, this means that you will pay the fine and court costs, but that the State will recommend PBJ to the judge. This is relatively straight forward process and the judge will probably go along with the recommendation of the State.
Although the prosecuting attorney may stipulate that they will not recommend PBJ, you can ask for them to read a modified statement of facts. This means that they will say you were doing 74 in a 55, instead of 76 (or higher) in a 55. This means that the judge will initially hear that you were going under 20 MPH over the speed limit. The judge may grant you PBJ due to the reduced speed.
If you plead innocent, the prosecuting attorney will be no help and will work to discredit both you and your witnesses. However, if the officer fails to appear, you walk and all court costs and fines are refunded to you. You can plead innocent if the officer doesn't appear, this means that the State's witness didn't appear and they don't have a case. If you have witnesses, be sure you know what they are going to say. Reherse it with them several times over so they get it right. Make sure your attorney knows what you and your witnesses are going to say before you step foot on the stand. I once saw a case where the defense attorney called a witness to the stand and when asked if they were anywhere near the scene, they responded, "no." Nothing like wasting everyone's time with a witness that is of no value.
I've been to circuit court 4 times and received no points each time. In two cases the officer failed to appear, and the other two the officer was present. I pleaded guilty for one case and not guilty for another. The only reason I pleaded not guilty, is because I had a witness and the prosecuting attorney wouldn't plea bargin. ("THIS State's attorney doesn't plea bargin!") He actually recommended that I not be given PBJ and the judge ended up giving it to me any way. :) (Asshole prosecuting attorneys!)