The Office of the City Attorney prosecutes misdemeanors and traffic offenses in Tuscaloosa Municipal Court, and on appeal to the Circuit Court and appellate courts of Alabama. If you receive a summons or subpoena to come to Court, it is your legal obligation to appear unless the Municipal Court Judge orders otherwise. No official Court business is done over the telephone. Requests for continuances, additional time to pay fines, and special requests for any Courthouse personnel must be done in person at the courthouse. Unless an emergency situation exists, most court business can be done on the regularly scheduled court date.
Minor traffic offenses such as running a red light or stop sign, speeding, equipment violations and so forth usually can be paid prior to the court date. Generally, one needs to wait a week after receiving the citation before attempting to pay the fine, in order to allow time for the ticket to be filed with the court. If you want a trial on traffic charges then you should come to Municipal Court on the court appearance date indicated on the citation.
Municipal Court only accepts cash, cashier’s check, money orders and credit/debit cards. If payment is mailed to the court, it must be either a cashier’s check or money order only. Serious traffic offenses, such as reckless driving, attempting to elude the police, and driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license, all require a court appearance.
Non-traffic misdemeanor offenses generally require a court appearance. Although a defendant may engage an attorney at anytime, it is not required that one retain an attorney prior to the first court appearance, called arraignment. During arraignment, opportunities are given to request a trial and an attorney. If the defendant is indigent and otherwise qualifies, then the judge may appoint the Public Defender’s office to handle the case – and contact information for the Public Defender’s office will be given to the defendant. Each person should make sure that all questions are answered before leaving court. It is especially important to make sure any subsequent court date is understood because failure to make any required court appearance, even if the person misunderstood, typically results in the issuance of an arrest warrant. So, it is essential that each person know what is required of them and also if and when to return to court.