When you walk into a Maricopa County Justice Court after receiving a citation for an alleged criminal traffic violation, you will be given three choices by the judge.

You will choose between pleading guilty, no contest or not guilty. The potential consequences for pleading guilty or no contest are essentially the same: you will face punishments that can include jail time, driver’s license suspension or restrictions, fines, points on your driving record, court-ordered classes and community service.

While many of those sanctions can be painful – especially jail, loss of driving privileges and fines – the punishments don’t end there. A driver’s license suspension, for instance, can for many people also mean that they will lose their job or be unable to continue with educational pursuits. A suspension or points or your record can also mean much higher auto insurance rates for the foreseeable future.

Examples of criminal traffic violations include the following:

  • Reckless driving
  • Aggressive driving
  • Excessive speeding
  • Driving on a suspended/revoked driver’s license
  • Leaving the scene of an accident

For many, the best option among the three choices in Maricopa County Justice Court is to plead not guilty, meaning that they deny the charges filed by the police. After pleading not guilty, you’ll be assigned a pre-trial or trial date. That’s when you’ll appear before a justice of the peace or, in some cases, before a judge and jury.

At all times in the process, you have a right to be represented by an attorney who will be able to confront and cross-examine witnesses.

Whichever of the three options you choose, please remember that you do have to make a choice and appear on the date and time listed on your citation. Ignoring the citation can lead to a driver’s license suspension or an arrest warrant issued in your name.