Defendants in traffic offense or misdemeanor cases have the right to have a jury of their peers decide their guilt or innocence if they face the possibility of jail. Therefore, at the time of the not guilty plea, the defendant should decide whether to have a jury trial or a court trial.
If a defendant chooses to have a jury trial, they must complete a Jury Demand Form and post a $25 jury deposit fee. Defendants have 21 days from the date of their not guilty plea to file the Jury Demand and pay the fee with the court. If the defendant misses the deadline, they lose their right to a Jury Trial. In serious traffic related matters, the defendant has an automatic right to a jury trial and will not be required to post a Jury Demand or fee.
Everyone accused of violating the law is legally presumed to be innocent until they are convicted, either by being proven guilty at a trial or by pleading guilty prior to trial. This means it is the prosecutor who has to convince the Jury or Judge that the defendant is guilty and must provide proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant has the right to remain silent and that silence cannot be used against them.
The law says how soon a defendant must be brought to trial. For defendants charged with certain traffic offenses, the trial must be held within 90 days of the defendant’s not guilty plea.
For defendants charged with serious traffic offenses or a misdemeanor, the trial must be held within 180 days of the defendant’s not guilty plea.