Under our American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. On a plea of Not Guilty, a trial is held. As in all criminal trials, the State must prove the guilt of a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt of the offense charged in the complaint, before the defendant can be found guilty by a judge or jury. You are required to enter a plea on the charge. When you signed the citation, it was not an admission of guilty, you simply gave your written promise to appear.
There are three possible pleas to a complaint:
Plea of Guilty
By entering a plea of Guilty, you admit that the act is prohibited by law, and that you committed the act charged. Before entering a plea of Guilty, however, you should understand the following:
- The State has the burden of proving that you violated the law (the law does not require that you must prove you did not violate the law).
- You have the right to hear the evidence presented by the State, and to require the State to prove that you violated the law; and
- A plea of guilty may be used against you later in a civil suit if there was a traffic accident (another party can say that you were at fault or responsible for the accident because you pled guilty to the traffic citation).
Plea of Nolo Contendere (No Contest)
A plea of no contest means that you do not contest the charge filed against you. You will almost certainly be found guilty, unless you are eligible and successfully complete a Driving Safety Course and/or a court ordered Deferment. Also, a plea of no contest may not be used against you in a subsequent civil suit for damages.
Plea of Not Guilty
A plea of not guilty means that you deny guilt, and that the State must prove the charge that is filed against you. If you plead not guilty, you have the right to a trial by the Judge or a jury. You will need to decide whether to hire an attorney to represent you at trial. You may defend yourself, but no one except an attorney may represent you.
If you defend yourself, please be advised that the Farmersville Municipal Court is not 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. Please refer to the following section on trials as this may help you understand your rights and trial procedures.