In Ohio, most traffic charges (speeding or driving under the influence, for example) and lower level misdemeanor charges are handled at the Municipal Court level. Generally, the first hearing at which you will appear is the “arraignment.” This is the court appearance where you are first asked how you answer the charges. Three different pleas or answers can be entered at this hearing. The first plea that you could enter is “not guilty.” Not guilty means that you deny the charges and you want the State or prosecutor to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at a court hearing either in front of the Judge or in front of a Jury. The second plea that you could enter is “guilty.” This plea is a complete admission that you committed the crime as charged and it is a waiver of all your rights. The final plea that you could enter is “no contest.” This plea means that you are not contesting the facts, but that you are not admitting guilt, however, it does subject you to potential punishment by the Court.
A “no contest” plea differs from a “guilty” plea because it can not be used against you in other court proceedings. For example, a plea of “no contest” to the criminal charge of assault could not be used against the defendant in a civil proceeding for damages for causing injury to the alleged victim.
If you enter a plea of “guilty” or “no contest”, the Judge may sentence you immediately.