Plan a Court Appearance


​Certain matters require you to appear before a judge, such as:

  • You have been cited with a criminal violation.
  • You need payment arrangements.
  • Your first appearance date has passed and you cannot pay your full fine within 10 days.
  • Your citation requires an interpretation of law.
  • You have other outstanding matters currently pending with this court.
  • Your situation is complicated and would require others in line behind you to experience longer than normal wait times.
  • The Violations Bureau is unable to resolve your specific ticket (see below for details).

In most cases, if you would like to pay your fine in full, you do not need to appear before a judge. If you are a minor or handling a criminal matter, even if you intend to pay your fine in full, you must appear before a judge.

Court schedule

There are specified days and times you need to appear depending on the matter you are trying resolve.

For traffic tickets or citations, you must appear on a weekday morning on or before your summons date. Check-in begins at 7:00 a.m. and must be completed by 8:30 a.m. Late check-ins are not allowed, so please plan accordingly. On average, court will last from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., but could run longer.

For criminal matters, you must appear personally at your summons date and time which appear on the citation or on your jail release agreement. This appearance cannot be rescheduled.

View the full Municipal Court weekly schedule.

Court plea

When you come to court for the first time to resolve an outstanding ticket, you must be prepared to enter a plea. You can either plead “not guilty” or “no contest.” Refer to the back of your ticket for detailed instructions about the plea options. For most tickets, you have the option to submit your plea in person to the Violations Bureau.

Pleas for parking violations​​

For parking violations, you must appear in person if you want to:

  • Enter a plea of “not guilty.”
  • Enter a plea of “no contest” and be considered for a reduction of the fine, based on previous parking history.​

​Plea by mail​

You may file a plea by mail under certain circumstances. A plea will be accepted by mail for a traffic violation if you live more than 100 miles away from Salem, Oregon. You may request a trial by affidavit by entering a plea of “not guilty” and completing the proper forms.

If you plead “no contest” by mail, you must include payment in full and may include a letter explaining your circumstances which could result in a reduction of the fine. If you plead “not guilty” by mail, court staff will mail you a date and time to appear in court.​

Pleas are not accepted by mail for parking violations or criminal matters. 

Violations Bureau

The Violations Bureau is staffed by court clerks who are authorized by the judge to handle specific court matters. It is located in the lobby of the Municipal Court.

The Violations Bureau is able to accept pleas for most tickets. If you submit a plea of “not guilty,” the clerk will set a trial date for you to appear before a judge. If you intend to plead “no contest” and are able to pay the fine amount on your citation, the clerks will check your driving record to see if you qualify for a reduction of the fine. There are some circumstances in which the court clerks are unable to resolve your citation at the counter, and you will be required to appear before the judge on or before your scheduled date and time.

Appear before a judge

If you need to appear before a judge, here is what may happen in court.

Ticket or fine

After you check in for court, you will go into the courtroom. The judge will enter and read the Municipal Court Rights and Procedures. Individuals will then be called up one at a time. The judge will read the charge against them and ask how they would like to plead. The judge handles the proceedings from there on a case-by-case basis.

If you miss your court date and fail to appear, you will be found guilty by default, the full fine amount on your citation will be assessed against you, and you will be notified by mail. If you are unable to pay the assessed fine, you must see a judge. Court staff will set a specific date and time for you to appear. If you have questions, you may call the court to ask about options.

Criminal matter

At your first appearance before a judge, you will be advised of the charge against you and the next appearance date will be set. You will also receive information about obtaining a court-appointed attorney. If you have retained an attorney, they will usually appear with you.

If you were cited for a crime and do not appear as ordered, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Your appearance date and time cannot be rescheduled.

Minors must appear in court

Children under the age of 18 who receive a ticket must appear in court with a parent or legal guardian. Court appearance is required regardless of the offense or the intent to pay the ticket in full.

Potential outcomes

Since the court provides individual justice for individual cases, there are many different outcomes possible from appearing in court. The two most common situations are explained below.

Payment arrangements

If fines are imposed and you cannot pay in full, a judge can approve a payment plan. In order to for the judge to approve a payment plan, you need to fill out a form about your financial status. This form is also available when you check in for your court appearance. The monthly amount of the plan is determined by the judge on a case-by-case basis.

Traffic school

You may qualify for a traffic diversion program outlined in the Salem Municipal Court Rules. To enter the program, you must see a judge on or before your summons date and meet the following conditions:

  • No convictions for traffic crimes in the past 10 years in any state.
  • Must not have attended in a traffic school in the past 10 years in any state.
  • No pending traffic tickets in any other court.
  • No traffic convictions during the 120 day diversion period.
  • The violation is not for speed racing or speeding in excess of 100 miles per hour.
  • Plead no contest to the traffic offense.
  • Pay the minimum fine for the offense.
  • Complete and pass the traffic safety program and submit proof to the court within 120 days.
  • Complete a Traffic Safety Diversion Application.

Court forms and applications

Title (with link to item)File Size
COVID-19 Violations Bureau Waiver Form and Entry of Plea68 KB
COVID-19 Violations Bureau Waiver Form Entry of Not Guily Plea and Setting Trial113 KB
Juvenile Traffic Safety Diversion Application, Affidavit, and Order (Salem Municipal Court)185 KB
Motion for Relief from Judgment - Parking (for car rental or leasing company) - Salem Municipal Court25 KB
Motion for Relief from Judgment - Parking (for owner of sold vehicle) - Salem Municipal Court33 KB
Request to Appeal Judgment76 KB
Salem Municipal Court Petition to Plead Guilty or No Contest180 KB
Traffic Safety Diversion Application, Affidavit, and Order (Salem Municipal Court)178 KB
Trial by Affidavit forms (Defendant’s Waiver of Oral Testimony) - Salem Municipal Court75 KB
Waiver of Counsel form (Salem Municipal Court)86 KB

Contact us

Municipal Court
7:00 a.m-5:00 p.m. (lobby)
8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. (phone)
555 Liberty ST SE RM 215
Salem OR 97301


​Court staff is not able to provide legal advice or recommend any attorney.

View the Municipal Court Trial Court Rules.


If you require a reasonable accessibility accommodation or language interpretation to appear before a judge, please contact us with your request. Spanish interpretation is available every Monday and Friday morning and for all criminal matters.