Is it Better to Plead Guilty or No Contest for a Speeding Ticket

Are you wondering about how to plea for a speeding ticket? When there is a choice between a guilty plea or no contest plea, you may find it confusing, as many others do. So, what’s the difference? When deciding how to respond to a speeding ticket, understanding the difference between pleading guilty and no contest (nolo contendere) is crucial. Both options have distinct implications for your driving record, insurance rates, and legal standing. Here’s an overview to help you make an informed decision:

Pleading Guilty

Pleading guilty means you admit the charges, saying that you have no defense for your actions, and allowing the court to proceed to levy punishment against you. The court will ensure that you entered the guilty plea of your own volition and that they have reason to believe you are being truthful. For example, a parent might plead guilty to a crime to protect their child, and the court would need to examine this situation for truthfulness. Plus, pleading guilty means, the prosecutor must explain what evidence they had against you if you had pleaded not guilty and a trial had been set.

A guilty plea is pretty straightforward. You admit to the charges. You do not agree to having committed the allegation in a no contest plea, you merely accept that the prosecution can produce sufficient evidence for you to be found guilty. Generally, no contest is likely the better way to go. If possible, it depends on the situation.

  • Immediate Consequences: Pleading guilty means you admit to the offense and accept the penalties, which can include fines, points on your driving record, and potentially higher insurance premiums.
  • Simplicity: It’s a straightforward process. Paying the fine can often be done online or by mail, eliminating the need for court appearances.
  • Insurance Impacts: A guilty plea is an admission of fault and can lead to increased insurance rates, depending on your insurer and your driving history.
  • Record: The conviction will appear on your driving record, which can affect your driving privileges and future interactions with the legal system.

Pleading No Contest

A no contest plea does not admit guilt, but as treated as guilt for the purpose of sentencing. No contest limits future liability. Pleading no contest means you admit no guilt or wrongdoing for the crime, but the court can determine the punishment. A court can decline to accept a no contest plea, but will probably not do so for a minor traffic infraction or violation. You may have a greater chance of getting a lesser sentence than might have been handed down by a jury trial.

Entering a no contest plea often serves the purpose of avoiding being sued in civil court for confessing to a crime, which forms the basis of a guilty plea. If the no contest plea restricts another person from suing you in civil court for an action, then it’ is curious why anyone would enter a plea of “guilty” to charges against them.

The judge may have a conversation with you to ensure that you understand the no contest plea and the potential punishment. This allows you to explain the circumstances and why you are pleading no contest instead of guilty or not guilty. The judge can gain a better perspective on the matter through this conversation.

Restrictions on pleading no contest vary state to state, and in some jurisdictions, it is restricted. It is not likely that the court will allow you to enter a no contest plea while you are denying your guilt to the media. This circumstance is known as an Alford plea and is based on a 1963 murder case in North Carolina. That defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree murder to avoid the death penalty, but still stated his innocence publically.

  • Legal Implications: A no-contest plea means you do not admit guilt but also do not dispute the charge. It results in a conviction, much like a guilty plea, but cannot be used against you as an admission of fault in civil court should there be a related lawsuit.
  • Insurance Rates: While the outcome on your driving record might be similar to that of a guilty plea, the fact that it is not an admission of guilt might be viewed differently by insurance companies, although this varies by insurer and jurisdiction.
  • Flexibility in Court: Pleading no contest can sometimes be part of a plea bargain with the prosecutor, potentially leading to reduced penalties or alternative sentencing, like traffic school, especially if you have legal representation.
  • Considerations for Civil Liability: If there’s a possibility of a civil suit related to the incident (e.g., an accident with injuries), a no-contest plea won’t serve as an admission of liability, which might be strategically advantageous.

Other Considerations

  • Legal Advice: Consulting with an attorney can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation and jurisdiction. The laws and practices can vary significantly by state and locality.
  • Traffic School: In some cases, attending traffic school can mitigate the consequences of a speeding ticket. This option can sometimes lead to the dismissal of the charge or avoidance of points on your record, depending on local laws.
  • Long-Term Impact: Consider the long-term implications of your plea on your driving record and insurance rates. Multiple convictions can lead to more severe penalties, including license suspension.

The decision to plead guilty or no contest depends on your individual circumstances, including the specifics of the ticket, your driving history, and any potential for civil litigation. While pleading guilty is straightforward and might be the best option for minor infractions, pleading no contest can offer strategic advantages in certain situations. Always consider seeking legal advice to navigate the complexities of traffic law and to make a decision that best protects your interests.

To find out more about the best choice of a plea for your personal situation, make an appointment to consult with a traffic ticket attorney.