Court Procedures

This information is not a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney.  

If you have questions about what would be in your best interest, what plea to enter, your rights as a defendant, or the consequences of a conviction of the offense for which you are charged, you should contact an attorney. Clerks, judges, and prosecutors cannot provide any legal advice.

  1. Your Rights
  2. Before Trial
  3. At Trial
  • Under the American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty
  • The State must prove you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”
  • Every criminal defendant has the right to remain silent and refuse to testify without consequences

Your Legal Obligation

  • The law requires you to make an appearance.
  • Your appearance date is noted on your citation, bond, summons, or release documents
  • You or your attorney may appear:
    • In person in open court
    • By mail, postmarked by the appearance date (defendants 17 years of age or older)
    • Delivering your plea in person to the court (defendants 17 years of age or older)
  • Your first appearance is to determine your plea of guilty, nolo contendere (no contest) or not guilty.
  1. Entering a Plea
  2. After a Plea of Not Guilty
  3. After a Finding of Guilty
  • Plea of Guilty: By a plea of guilty, you must admit that you committed the criminal offense charged.
  • Plea of Nolo Contendere (no contest): A plea of no contest means that you do not contest the State’s charge against you.
  • Plea of Not Guilty: A plea of not guilty does not waive your right to appeal or to a jury trial. A plea of not guilty does not prevent a plea of guilty or no contest prior to trial.

The difference between a plea of guilty and no contest is that a plea of not contest may not later be used against you in a civil case. For example, in a civil case arising from a traffic crash, a plea of guilty can be used as evidence of your responsibility or fault where as your plea of no contest cannot.