All infraction cases begin with the issuance of a uniform citation to the defendant. The uniform citation is both a formal criminal complaint and a summons. On the citation, the defendant is given a date to appear in court.
First Appearance Before Court
The defendant must appear at the clerk's office on or before the date set out in the citation. The purpose of this appearance is to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the citation. If the defendant fails to appear at the clerk's office to enter a plea, the court enters a guilty plea by default and sends notice to the defendant of their requirement to pay the fixed penalty. If the defendant appears at the clerk's office prior to or at the time set on the citation, they can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If they plead guilty they will be required to pay the fine within fourteen (14) days. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the court will provide the defendant with a date and time to appear at a pretrial conference.
The defendant can have an attorney appear to defend them in an infraction case. Unlike felony and misdemeanor offenses, however, a defendant is not entitled to court-appointed counsel if they are indigent. The United States Supreme Court has held that the right to court-appointed counsel does not apply to cases in which only a fine can be imposed. Since no jail time can be imposed for an infraction in Idaho, a defendant is not entitled to court-appointed counsel in an infraction case.
The purpose of a pretrial conference is to bring the parties together to determine if they can reach a satisfactory resolution to the case. If the prosecution and the defendant reach an agreement, the agreement is written down on a court form and delivered to the clerk's office. If the defendant is pleading guilty to a charge, they will be required to pay the fine at the time the agreement is submitted to the clerk's office or within 14 days of submitting the court's pretrial form to the clerk (unless a special extension of time to pay is granted by the court). Any questions about payment of the fine should be discussed with the clerk. If the case cannot be resolved and needs to be set for a trial, the clerk will notify the defendant of the date of the trial at the time the court's pretrial form is turned in to the clerk's office.
There is no right to a jury trial on an infraction case. All trials are decided by a magistrate judge. There may be anywhere from 3 to 10 infraction trials set at the same time and place. The judge calls the cases at his discretion.
The fines for infraction offenses are fixed by court rule. The magistrate has no discretion to increase or decrease the fine if the defendant is found guilty. A list of the possible fines is set forth in Idaho Infraction Rule 9.
Assessment Of Points To Driving Records
The judge does not have any control over the assessment of points to a defendant's driving record upon conviction. Such points are assessed by the Idaho Department of Transportation.
Failure To Pay The Fine On Time
The Idaho Department of Transportation will suspend a person's driver's license if they fail to pay the fine on an infraction within the required time. This will result in the defendant having to pay the fine and an administration fee in order to have their driving privileges reinstated.