Under our American system of justice all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. On a plea of not guilty a formal trial is held. The State is required to prove guilt of the offense charged in the complaint "beyond a reasonable doubt" before a defendant can be found guilty by a judge or jury.
You have many rights as a defendant in municipal court:
- You are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- You have the right to testify on your own behalf or refuse to do so without consequences.
- You have the right to retain an attorney, but you are not required to do so.
- You have the right to represent yourself as a pro se defendant.
- You have the right to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
- You have the right to receive a copy of the complaint before trial as well as other information the state has about your case (discovery).
Plea of Not Guilty
A plea of not guilty means you are informing the court that you deny guilt in this case, and that the state must prove what it has charged against you. You have the right to a trial by judge or jury. You will need to decide whether or not to hire an attorney to represent you. You may defend yourself, but no one other than an attorney may represent you.
If you choose to defend yourself, the section on Trials will help you to understand trial procedure. All proceedings will be conducted according to the rules of criminal procedure and the rules of evidence. Please be advised that the City of Victoria Municipal Court is a court of non-record.
Plea of Guilty
A plea of guilty is a formal admission of guilt wherein the defendant confesses to committing the charged crime. The defendant will be found guilty and assessed a fine and costs. A defendant entering a plea of guilty may be eligible for Deferred Disposition or the Driving Safety Course.
Plea of Nolo Contendere (No Contest)
A plea of nolo contendere (no contest) means the defendant is not contesting the charges filed against them. The defendant will be found guilty and assessed a fine and costs. Although this plea has a similar legal effect as pleading guilty, the defendant does not admit or deny the charges. A defendant pleading no contest may be eligible for Deferred Disposition or the Driving Safety Course.
Defendants who plead guilty or nolo contendere must also waive the right to a jury trial in writing.