Most criminal cases never go to trial. The vast majority of them are pled out, which means the state prosecutor offers something, say probation over a jail sentence or a lesser charge in exchange for the defendant to plea to the charge.


Keep in mind this is a conversation between the state prosecutor and your defense council. Your defense counsel is required to inform you of any offer made by the state prosecutor, regardless whether they, the defense counsel, thinks it is a good offer or not, and they will let you know that.


However, the only one who can decide whether the offer is good or bad and whether to take the offer or not is the defendant, the defense counsel cannot answer for the defendant on their own.


If the defendant decides to accept the state prosecutors plea offer there are usually two ways they can plea, either Guilty or Nolo Contendere, which is Latin for “I do not wish to contend” or “No Contest.”


In the cases where the defendant pleads Guilty, pleading Guilty means the defendant admits the charges, and has no defense for their actions, and the court can go ahead and levy punishment against them.


In the cases where the defendant pleads No Contest, pleading No Contest means the defendant admits no guilt for the crime, but the court can determine the punishment.


Whether one pleads guilty or no contest they are giving up some rights, such as the right to:


  • Investigate the case further
  • Proceed to trial
  • Be tried by a jury
  • Have an attorney represent him/her at trial
  • Compel the attendance of witnesses at trial
  • Confront witnesses who testify against him/her
  • Testify at trial
  • Remain silent at trial
  • Appeal


So just what does pleading No Contest get you versus pleading Guilty? The purpose of entering a no contest plea is often to avoid being sued civilly for basically confessing to a crime, which is the basis of a guilty plea.


For example, you strike someone and you are arrested and charged with assault. The victim of the assault may also sue you in civil court. By pleading No Contest, your conviction on the assault charge cannot be used in the civil case as proof that you committed the assault.


Keep in mind, when you plead No Contest, the plea has the same basic effect as a Guilty plea. The defendant is convicted and accepts punishment and will have a conviction on their record.


Additionally, the Courts must approve all pleas prior to the Defendant pleading. Some Judges do not like accepting No Contest pleas and will not accept one even if agreed to by the State Prosecutor. This is another good reason why you should be in constant contact with your defense attorney for they know which Judges may or may not accept this type of plea.



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