Criminal Law Questions? Ask a Criminal Lawyer.
We were told that it wouldn't be worth it. If they are charging us the maximum fine for animal cruelty, how much more expensive can it get if we do go to court and are still found guilty and charged? How much are court fees and whatever other fees normally?
How should we go in on the court date? We were told to never plead guilty... We honestly didn't know it was a law and had taken all the precautions, i.e. left the windows cracked, given our pets water, parked in the shade, etc... how should we prepare for this?
How can we ask for a better deal? (is there particular wording I should use?) I don't mind paying fines, I just don't want a misdemeanor on my record... We don't want to escalate this since it's a municipal charge. Also, since it is a municipal charge, will the misdemeanor show on my criminal record affecting my being able to get security clearances, etc?
A guilty plea even at a reduced fine would result in a misdemeanor charge on your record. An ordinance that is listed as a misdemeanor is still a misdemeanor. Asking for a better deal generally just involves showing up to court early and asking the prosecutor who is handling the case what their plea offer is and trying to improve on that. They may be willing to offer you something that does not result in a conviction, like first offender's program, diversion, or community service in lieu of conviction. If they are still offering something that results in a conviction, then your only way around a conviction is by taking the case to trial and winning.
You may want to consider getting an attorney to handle this for a better chance of keeping your record clear. Since it is a relatively simple case you should be able to find one that will do it for a flat fee.
What would be a reasonable flat fee for this type of case?