How do I enter a plea on my citation and what are my options?
When appearing on a citation, a defendant will be asked to enter his or her plea to the charges alleged. There are three different answers: 1) guilty; 2) not guilty; or 3) nolo contendere or no contest. The plea entered is very important and should be considered carefully due to the consequences of each. See Court Appearances, Pleas, Trials...for more information.
If you plead guilty on the citation, you will be convicted of the offense charged and it will appear on your driving and/or criminal record unless you request deferred disposition/probation. A conviction for a moving violation which is listed on your driving record may negatively affect your auto insurance. Likewise, if your record reflects a conviction for a Class C misdemeanor theft, the classification and penalties for any subsequent theft charges will be significantly enhanced. Moreover, if a citation is issued at the scene of an auto accident, pleading guilty to the traffic offense may subject you to liability in a civil suit for any damages arising from that accident.
Nolo Contendere or No Contest
The term nolo contendere is a Latin term meaning "no contest." No contest is a plea of neither guilty nor innocence. A plea of nolo contendere or no contest cannot be used against you in a civil suit for damages should the citation be issued in conjunction with a traffic accident.
You have the absolute right to enter a plea of not guilty at any time. The State bears the burden of proving you committed an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. A plea of not guilty should definitely be entered when you deny committing the alleged offense or when you believe that the facts and circumstances provide you with a defense. If you plead not guilty, you will have the right to a trial by jury or trial before the Court/Judge. You may hire an attorney to represent you or you may act as your own attorney (pro se). As in all criminal cases, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of committing the offense cited. After the defendant enters a not guilty plea, the Court clerk will schedule that case on the Pre-Trial or First Appearance docket. During this hearing, the defendant will have an opportunity to discuss the case with the Municipal Prosecutor. If the case is not dismissed and there is no plea agreement, the case will be set for trial at a later date. This enables both the prosecutor and defendant to subpoena witnesses, gather evidence, and prepare for trial. See Court Appearances, Pleas, Trials, Appeals.... for more information on the trial process.