Your decision concerning which plea to enter is very important. You should read the following explanation of the three types of pleas and think carefully before making your decision. View the Plea Sheet (PDF).
Plea of Guilty
By a plea of guilty, you admit that you committed the criminal offense charged, are waiving your right to have a trial by judge or by jury, and maybe convicted purely on the plea alone. Depending upon the offense, a conviction may be reported and appear on your driving record or criminal history.
Plea of Nolo Contendere (No Contest)
A plea of nolo contendere or no contest means that you do not wish to fight (or contest) the charge against you, are waiving your right to have a trial by judge or by jury, and may be convicted of the offense purely on the plea alone, similar to if you had pled guilty. Depending upon the offense, a conviction may be reported and appear on your driving record or criminal history.
Plea of Not Guilty
A plea of not guilty means that you deny guilt and require the State to prove the charge. A plea of not guilty does not waive any of your rights. A plea of not guilty does not prevent a plea of guilty or no contest at a later time. If you plea is not guilty, you will be set a pretrial hearing date and then a trial setting, either by jury or before the court, at your election.
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.” You have a choice of a trial by judge or a jury trial. A jury trial is a constitutional right. If you prefer a trial by a judge, you must sign a form waiving your right to a jury trial.
If you plead not guilty, you will need to decide whether to employ an attorney to represent you at the trial. You may defend yourself, but no one other than an attorney may represent you.
If you defend yourself, please be advised that this court is a court of record. All proceedings will be conducted according to the rules of criminal procedure and the rules of evidence. If you choose to represent yourself, you must be prepared. The court staff, bailiff, prosecuting attorney, or judge cannot act as your attorney by providing legal advice or assistance in the presentation of your case.
Law libraries are located at all county courthouses and are generally open to the public during regular business hours.