Defendants appearing in court have the right to be represented by an attorney of their own choosing. Before entering a plea, defendants have the right to consult with an attorney for advice. However, an attorney is not required. Defendant’s may represent themselves.
Defendants are presumed innocent. The prosecuting attorney has the burden to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If a defendant pleads not guilty at their first court appearance (referred to as an arraignment), their case is set for trial before the court at a future date.
At the trial, a defendant has the right to confront the witnesses against them and cross-examine them. A defendant has the right to remain silent and also the right to testify in their own defense, as well as present evidence in defense of the charges.
The court will render a verdict when the evidence has concluded. If a defendant is found not guilty of the offense, they are discharged. If found guilty and a conviction entered, a defendant has the right to file a trial de novo or appeal but the appeal must be filed within ten (10) days of the finding of guilt. Once the appeal is filed, the case is then transferred to the circuit court of St. Louis County and assigned to a judge within that circuit.
If a defendant chooses to plead guilty, they have waived or given up their right to have a lawyer represent them and their rights to a trial. The court may sentence a defendant within the range of punishment allowed by the City of Wellston ordinances. That range of punishment for most offenses is a maximum of ninety (90) days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Court costs are also assessed for each violation. Neither the judge nor the clerk is allowed to give legal advice. Prior to arraignment, a defendant desiring legal advice should consult with an attorney.
A defendant also has the right to a trial by jury, or if the prosecutor is seeking jail time, but must make that demand through the clerk of the court. A cost deposit may be required. Upon a timely demand, the case is then transferred to the circuit court of St. Louis County and assigned to a trial division equipped to handle juries.