Entering Your Plea
Your decision on what plea to enter is very important. When you make your initial appearance, you must decide upon and enter a plea to the charge against you. By signing the citation in front of an officer, you did not plead guilty, but only signed a promise to appear in court. There are three possible pleas to a complaint:
Plea of Guilty
By pleading guilty, you admit that you committed the act charged, that the act is prohibited by law, and that you have no defense for your actions. Before entering your plea of guilty, you need to understand the following:
- If you were involved in a traffic accident at the time of the alleged offense, your plea of guilty could be used later in a civil suit for damages as an admission by you that you were at fault or were the party responsible for the accident.
Plea of Nolo Contendere (No Contest)
A plea of nolo contendere, also known as no contest, means that you do not wish to contest the State's charge against you. Nolo contendere has the same legal effect as a guilty plea, but without the civil liability. You may also be able to talk to the City Prosecutor about circumstances regarding the violation.
Plea of Not Guilty
A plea of not guilty means that you are informing the Court that you deny guilt and that the State must prove its charges against you. If you plead not guilty, your case will be scheduled for the next available court date. Only you or a licensed attorney may defend a case in court. If you represent yourself, please be advised that this court is a court of record. All proceedings will be conducted according to the rules of criminal procedure and the rules of evidence. If you choose to represent yourself, you must be prepared. The court staff, bailiff, prosecuting attorney, or judge cannot act as your attorney by providing legal advice or legal assistance in the presentation of your case.
Under our American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. On a plea of not guilty, a formal trial will be scheduled. As in a criminal trial, the State is required to prove the guilt of the defendant "beyond a reasonable doubt" of the offense charged in the complaint before a defendant can be found guilty by a judge or jury.