If you deny responsibility and request an informal hearing, at that hearing:

  • Neither side may be represented by a lawyer.
  • The magistrate conducts the hearing in an informal manner.  This means that the magistrate listens carefully to both sides of the story without requiring either side to strictly follow the same rules of evidence and procedure that a lawyer would have to follow in court.
  • Both sides have a right to appeal the magistrate’s decision to a judge.  The judge would then hold a formal de novo hearing.  (De novo is a legal term meaning that the judge would hear the case fresh, free to make his or her own decision based on the evidence presented at the formal de novo hearing regardless of what was presented at the informal hearing or what the magistrate decided at that hearing.)


If you deny responsibility and request a formal hearing, the case will be set for a pre-trial conference.  At that conference:

  • The police will be represented by a lawyer.  You may hire a lawyer to represent you at your own expense, but if you cannot afford a lawyer the court will not appoint one for you at public expense.
  • The lawyer for the police will listen to your side of the story and decide whether the charged violations should be reduced, dismissed or otherwise modified.  You then will decide whether to accept responsibility for any modified violation.
  • If the case is not settled at the pre-trial conference, a formal hearing will be scheduled. :
    • The hearing will be held before a judge.  The judge must conduct the hearing in a formal manner, meaning that you (or your lawyer) must follow the same rules of procedure and evidence that lawyers are bound to follow in other kinds of court cases.
    • Both sides have the right to appeal the judge’s decision to a higher court.  This appeal would not be a de novo hearing.

Request a Hearing

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Berrien County Courthouse
811 Port Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085
Berrien County Administration Center
701 Main Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085
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Last Updated 4/22/2016   
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