If you've received a ticket and are unsure of what comes next, know that there are options available for most Defendants (those charged with an offense) to dispose their case. On this page, we'll give you a brief overview of these options and the corresponding process.
We recognize that you're busy and may feel frustrated about receiving a ticket. However, it's important to remember that your frustration isn't directed at the Court Clerk. The Clerk didn't issue your citation, and according to the law, they're unable to provide legal advice. Therefore, there's no justification for raising your voice or being abusive. The Court staff's primary role is to process criminal charges filed in this court and assist you, as a Defendant, in understanding all potential options available to you.
Every adult Defendant that receives a citation that is filed in the Gainesville Municipal Court has fifteen (15) business days from the issuance of the citation to appear, in person, for their Initial Appearance. The purpose for this Initial Appearance is to determine your plea to the offense charged. On or before this Initial Appearance, at the Court Clerk’s window, you may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest). Your decision concerning which plea to enter is very important and you should think carefully before making your decision.
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 prove that you did not violate the law) and you have the right to hear the State’s evidence against you; 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 you were at fault or responsible for the accident because you plead guilty to the traffic charge)
With a plea of Nolo Contendere (No Contest) you are saying you do not contest, or want to fight, the State’s charge against you because you will almost certainly be found guilty if the case were to go to trial. Also, a plea of nolo contendere may not be used against you in a subsequent civil suit for damages.
When you enter a plea of Not Guilty you are saying you deny guilt or you do not believe the State can prove your guilt. Remember under our American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. If you plead not guilty, you need to decide whether to hire an attorney to represent you. If you represent yourself, this link The Trial may help you to understand your rights and trial procedure.
If you plead guilty or nolo contendere, you should be prepared to pay the fine or discuss with a clerk any other sentencing alternatives that may be available. Court Clerks have a wide array of options for you like payment plans, community service, can discuss and explain Driving Safety Courses and Deferred Dispositions.