Should You Plead Guilty to a Traffic Ticket?  

When entering a plea with the Court on a traffic citation, you have three choices to make; guilty, not guilty, or no contest.  The Judge only wants to hear one of them.

You can enter a plea of “Not Guilty”, and the Judge will set the matter for a trial.  Discussion is over after “Not Guilty” is uttered.   Once you say the words “not guilty”, there is no more explaining what happened or trying to negotiate with the Judge.   The Judge sets a trial date and moves on to the next case.

You can enter a “Guilty” plea.  If you do this, you are agreeing with what you have been charged with and making an admission that you did what was alleged on the citation.  The Judge will accept your guilty plea and access a fine associated with the charge.  This is a time to ask for no traffic school or an amendment to a non-moving violation.  The Judge may even entertain a SHORT, explanation of the offense.  So you may say something like “Guilty with an explanation” and wait for the Judge to give you permission to give that explanation.  He will then order the appropriate fine.

Then comes “No Contest”, or “Nolo Contendere” (which is Latin for no contest. Lawyers love using Latin).   This plea is the same as guilty except for some  technical differences.  No contest means that you do not agree with what you were charged with, however, you will accept the fine or punishment associated with the charge. The difference between guilty and no contest is in the admission of the charge against you. Guilty equals, yes I did what I was charged with and admit it.  No contest equals, I do not agree and make no admissions to what I was charged with, however, I will accept the fine or punishment associated with the charge.

After saying no contest,  it is a good time to ask the Judge for no traffic school or an amendment to a non-moving violation.  The most important time to use a no contest plea is when there is some damage associated with the charge, like an accident.  If you ran a red light and hit someone and are charged with failure to obey a traffic control devise, a guilty plea and admission can be used in civil court to show fault for the accident.  If you enter a no contest plea, you are not making an admission to the facts.