If you receive a criminal traffic violation in Arizona, you need to be prepared to stand before the judge on your appearance date. Knowing your options before you attend this appearance is important so that you can speak confidently about the direction you wish to take. To better understand the ramifications of the choice you make, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney first.

There are three options you have when you appear before the judge on your scheduled appearance date.

Plead Guilty

When you plead guilty, you admit that you did indeed commit the violation listed on your ticket. Some of the possible penalties for taking this route include fines, suspension or restriction of your driving privileges, community service, jail time, points on your driving record, and education classes ordered by the court. You could also see your insurance rates increase, too.   If you plead guilty at this first court date you usually DO NOT have the opportunity to speak with the prosecutor and attempt to make a plea deal that could be to your benefit.

Plead No Contest

When you opt to plead no contest, you are saying that you don’t deny the charges against you but you are also not admitting to the charges. You are simply making the statement that you have no intention of contesting guilty charges. Typically the penalty for doing this is the same as a guilty plea. The judge, however, may be open to hearing some kind of explanation before determining a penalty or fine for your case.   Some courts will not allow a no contest plea unless you can demonstrate some compelling reason that a no contest plea is in the interests of justice.  The most common reason for pleading no contest is to limit your liability from the actions that gave rise to the traffic violation in the first place.  For example, if your criminal speed charge is the result of an accident.  A no contest plea would not be used against you later, in a civil suit, as an admission of culpability. You should discuss with an experienced criminal defense attorney whether there are any benefits to pleading no contest.

Plead Not Guilty

When you plead not guilty, you are indicating that you want to exercise your right against self-incrimination and are not willing to waive your right to a trial.  This has the effect of requiring the plaintiff to be able to prove the case against you.  If they cannot, then you will be found not guilty.  Pleading not guilty also allows time for you or your attorney to attempt to negotiate a plea agreement to resolve the case in a manner that is beneficial to all parties. From this point, you’ll be given a pre-trial or a trial date. If you decide this is the right avenue for you, you retain the right to a trial before a judge or a jury, the right to be represented by an attorney, the right to appeal, the right to remain silent, and the right to have subpoenas issued by the court so that witnesses may attending the court session.

The Value of Hiring an Attorney

Criminal traffic violations are more serious than civil traffic violations, and this is one key reason why you should communicate with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately after being charged. An attorney familiar with typical consequences for these charges can help you determine the best way to approach your case.

Under the guidance of an experienced attorney, you may be able to present evidence, like witness testimony, that helps your case. Having the insight from a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney could be critical for the outcome of your case, especially if you are aiming to get the charges reduced.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a criminal traffic violation is a minor issue you can manage on your own. While you are technically allowed to determine your own course of action, advice from an attorney could help you reduce the impact of a conviction significantly. A criminal traffic violation could have big ramifications for your life and your driving privileges, so a consultation with an attorney is recommended before your hearing.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please feel free to contact Mesa Criminal Attorney, Garrett L. Smith at 480-540-6021 log on to www.mycriminaldefenselawyeraz.com, or contact an attorney in your area.