Under our American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. On a plea of not guilty, a trial is held. As in all criminal trials, the State must prove the guilt of a defendant "beyond a reasonable doubt" of the offense charged in the complaint before the defendant can be found guilty by a judge or jury.
Your decision concerning which plea to enter is very important. You should read the explanations of all three types. If you plead guilty or nolo contendre, you should be prepared to pay the fine. You should contact the court regarding how to make payment.
By a plea of guilty, you admit that the act is prohibited by law and that you committed the act charged. Before entering your 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 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; and
- A plea of guilty may be used against you later in a civil suit if there was a traffic accident (another party can say you were at fault or responsible for the accident because you pled guilty to the traffic charge.)
A plea of nolo contendre (no contest) means that you do not contest the State's charge against you. You will almost certainly be found guilty, unless you are eligible and successfully complete a driving safety course and/or court ordered probation. Also, a plea of nolo contendre may not be used against you in a subsequent civil suit for damages.
A plea of not guilty means that you deny guilt, and that the State must prove the charge that it filed against you. If you plead not guilty, you need to decide whether to hire an attorney to represent you. If you represent yourself, the section on The Trial may help you to understand your rights and trial procedure.