Submitting a Plea
Your decision concerning which plea to enter is very important. You should read all of the following information and the explanations of all three types of pleas carefully before making your decision.
This information about criminal court proceedings is not a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney. If you have questions about your best course of action, what plea you should enter, your rights, or the consequence of a conviction of the offense for which you are charged, you should contact an attorney. Neither the Clerk, the Judge, nor the Prosecutor can give you legal advice.
Under our American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The State must prove you guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt" of the offense with which you are charged. Every criminal defendant has the right to remain silent and refuse to testify (without consequences). You have the right to retain an attorney and have them try your case or answer your questions. Since offenses in this court are punishable only by fine and not by incarceration, you do not have the right to appointed counsel.
You have the right to a jury trial. You may waive a jury trial and have a trial before the judge, commonly called a "bench trial." If you elect to represent yourself, no person other than an attorney can assist you during a trial.
At trial you have many rights including:
- The right to have notice of the complaint not later than the day before any proceedings in the prosecution;
- The right to inspect the complaint before trial, and have it read to you at the trial;
- The right to hear all testimony introduced against you;
- The right to cross-examine witnesses who testify against you;
- The right to testify on your own behalf;
- The right not to testify (Your refusal to do so may not be held against you in determining your innocence or guilt.); and
- You may call witnesses to testify on your behalf at the trial, and have the court issue a subpoena (a court order) to any witnesses to ensure their appearance at the trial.
Types of Pleas
Unless you are entitled to a compliance dismissal, you must enter a plea to the charge against you on or before the court date on your citation. The three possible pleas are as follows:
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.
Plea of Guilty - By a plea of Guilty, you admit that you committed the criminal offense charged.
Plea of Nolo Contendere (no contest) - A plea of Nolo Contendere means that you do not contest the State's charge against you.
The difference between a plea of Guilty and Nolo Contendere is that the no contest plea may not later be used against you in a civil suit for damages. For example, in a civil suit arising from a traffic crash, a Guilty plea can be used as evidence of your responsibility or fault.
If you plead Guilty or Nolo Contendere, you will be found guilty and should be prepared to pay the fine. A plea of Guilty or Nolo Contendere waives all of the trial rights discussed earlier. If you are unable to pay the entire fine and costs, you should be prepared to document and explain your financial situation.
Nothing contained herein is intended to be nor should be construed as legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. The information on this site is compiled and made available as a public service by the Ingleside Municipal Court. However, neither the Court nor the City of Ingleside makes any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of the information herein, and is not responsible for errors or omissions, or for results obtained from the use of this information. Distribution of the information does not constitute such a warranty. Use of the information is the sole responsibility of the user.