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 defendant "beyond a reasonable doubt" of the offense charged in the complaint before a defendant can be found guilty by a judge or a jury. Your decision concerning which plea to enter is very important. Please consider each plea carefully before making a decision. If you plead guilty or no contest in an open court, you should be prepared to pay the fine and court costs within 30 days.
Plea of Guilty
A plea of guilty means that you admit that the act is prohibited by law, that you committed the act as charged, and that you have no defense or excuse for your act.
Before entering your plea of guilty, 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
- 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 pleaded guilty to the traffic charge)
Plea of No Contest
A plea of no contest 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 deferred adjudication. Also, a plea of no contest cannot be used against you in a subsequent civil suit for damages.
Plea of Not Guilty
A plea of not guilty means you are informing the court that you deny guilt or that you have a defense in your case, and that the State must prove what it has charged against you. If you plead not guilty, you will need to decide whether to hire an attorney to represent you. If you represent yourself, the Trial Information section will help you understand trial procedure.