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 is held. As in all criminal trials, the State is required to prove the guilt of the offense charged in the complaint, "beyond a reasonable doubt" before a defendant can be found guilty by a judge or jury.
Your decision concerning which plea to enter is very important. Please consider each plea carefully before making a decision.
Plea of Guilty
By a plea of guilty, you admit that the act is prohibited by law, that you committed the act charged, and that you have no defense or excuse for your act. Before entering a plea of guilty, however, you should understand the following:
- The state has the burden of proving that you violated the law (the law does not require that you prove that you did not violate the law)
- You have the right to hear the state’s evidence and to require the state to prove you violated the law
- A plea of guilty may be used against you later in a civil suit (e.g.: If there was a traffic accident (another party can say you were at fault or responsible for the accident because you plead guilty to the traffic charge)
Plea of Nolo Contendere (No Contest)
A plea of nolo contendere means that you do not contest the state’s charge against you. You will be found guilty, unless you are eligible and successfully complete a driving safety course and/or court ordered probation. A plea of nolo contendere cannot be used against you in a subsequent civil suit for damages.
Fines & Court Costs
If you plead guilty or nolo contendere in open court, you should be prepared to pay the fine and court costs. You should contact the court regarding how to make payment.
Plea of Not Guilty
A plea of not guilty means that you deny guilt or that you have a defense in your case, and that the state must prove the charges against you. You will need to decide whether to hire an attorney to represent you. If you represent yourself, the following section on the trial will help you to understand this procedure.