Pleas / Options
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 following explanation of all three types of pleas and think carefully before making your decision. If you plead guilty or nolo contendere, you should be prepared to pay the fine. You should contact the court regarding how to make payment.
Plea of Guilty
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).
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 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 contendere may not be used against you in a subsequent civil suit for damages.
Plea of Not Guilty
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.
Deferred disposition is a form of probation that may be available to eligible defendants upon recommendation by the prosecutor or at the discretion of the court. If the period of probation is completed by the defendant without any violation of the conditions of probation, at the end of the probationary period, the charge will be dismissed and no record of conviction will result. The applicable court costs must be paid at the time the defendant enters a plea and is granted probation. No probation will be granted without payment of the costs assessed. Deferred Disposition will not be granted without a formal court appearance by the defendant. Any violation of the conditions of probation may result in a conviction being entered against the defendant for the offense charged and, upon conviction, the maximum fine allowed by law will become immediately due and payable. If that fine is not paid at that time, a warrant will be issued for the arrest of the defendant.