Explanation of Pleas
If you plead not guilty, the charge will be referred to the city attorney and you will discuss the case with her. You have the right to a trial in Municipal Court. If you take your case to trial, the burden of proof is on the city. The city has to prove the case by evidence that is clear, satisfactory and convincing. After a trial, you will be found either guilty or not guilty. If you are found guilty, a penalty will be imposed. The forfeiture can either be higher or lower than the deposit amount on your ticket. If you are found not guilty at trial, the case will be dismissed.
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your trial, you have the right to appeal the Municipal Court's decision to the Dane County Circuit Court. The city also has the right to appeal. An appeal can be on the record, which is a review of the transcript of your Municipal Court trial. It can also be a new trial to a judge or it can be a trial to a 6-person jury.
If you are charged with OWI (operating while intoxicated), you have the immediate right to request a jury trial in Dane County Circuit Court. You must make that request within 10 days of your initial appearance. There are fees attached to a jury trial request.
If you plead guilty, you are admitting to the charges against you. You will be found guilty and penalties will be imposed.
If you plead no contest and the court accepts your plea, you will be found guilty and penalties will be imposed. A no contest plea is very much like a guilty plea, except you are not admitting to the facts of the case against you. You are agreeing to be found guilty. If you are found guilty after a plea of no contest, the finding of guilty cannot be used against you in other civil lawsuits.
If you plead guilty or no contest and the court accepts one of those pleas, the court must find you guilty. The judge will give you an opportunity to address the court on sentencing.