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Guilty or Not Guilty: Your Definitive Guide on How To Plead In Traffic Court

A question that I hear all the time is "What do I say when the judge asks 'guilty or not guilty'?" and if I'm talking to one of my clients I calmly reassure them that I will be able to answer that question for them and they have nothing to worry about.

Now, if you're here and haven't retained legal counsel, then I will do my best, but ultimately this decision is up to you.

A guilty plea is stating to the court that you have committed the crime or infraction that you have been charged with. You are waiving your right to a trial, your right to question the officer or present witnesses. At that point, you will move beyond the trial phase and to the sentencing phase of your court hearing. The court is no longer determining whether or not you are guilty and is now deciding what your punishment will be.

A plea of not guilty states to the court that you aren't admitting anything and the police officer or Commonwealth attorney will have to prove their case against you. Not guilty does not mean innocent and you have the absolute right to plead not guilty no matter what the facts are of your case.

In most jurisdictions, the court will also allow you to plead no contest or "nolo contendere". Pleading no contest is essentially a way to plead guilty without pleading guilty. You are stating to the court that if the evidence were presented, the court would find you guilty. The court may hear a short summary of the evidence from the police officer or Commonwealth attorney at that point, but are not determining guilt or innocence.

If you are facing an upcoming traffic matter and need assistance, please give me a call at 757-898-4805!

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