I was handed a citation by a cop or received one in the mail. What do I do with it?

If you received a citation for a criminal offense, you have just been given an opportunity to contest the charges before a clerk.  This is good news – there is a possibility that the case can be resolved before a clerk, which means you will never see a judge or have a record from this incident.  But time is of the essence.
In the cases of misdemeanors not observed by police officers, motor vehicle violations, and, in rare circumstances, felonies, a police officer will hand or mail you a citation.  If the police officer has checked or circled where it says “criminal application” on the bottom middle portion of the citation, then you have been charged with a crime and been given the opportunity to seek a clerk’s hearing.  As it states in Instruction B on the back of the citation, you must sign and date the citation at the bottom of Instruction B and drop off the citation within just four days at the criminal clerk’s office of the district court that has jurisdiction over the town in which you have been charged.  That location is supposed to be written by the police officer on the bottom right of the citation where it says, “court address”.  However, police officers often leave that area blank or scrawl a shorthand for the court that is illegible.  There are other ways you can determine where to bring the citation: 1) google what district court the town of offense goes to; 2) google what court the “court code” written on the top of the citation pertains to; 3) call the police department that provided you the citation and ask them; or 4) call a lawyer for assistance.  Remember, if you do not request a clerk’s hearing before the four day deadline, then the right to a hearing is deemed waived.  It is always helpful to have a lawyer assist you with the process to ensure that you do not lose your opportunity to have a clerk’s hearing.

Michael Thaler, Esq.

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