What is a No-Contest Plea?
The decision of how to plead at your arraignment is one of the most important decisions you will make after being charged with a crime. You generally have three options: not guilty, guilty, or no contest. Of these, a no-contest plea, some called nolo contendere, is typically the one that raises the most questions. In order to determine whether pleading no contest is right for you, it's important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
An Overview of Plea Types
To understand what a no-contest plea entails, it's helpful to compare it to the other types of pleas.
A brief overview of the four possible pleas:
- Not Guilty: When you plead "not guilty," you are saying you did not commit the crime you are facing charges for. The case will proceed to trial and the prosecution will attempt to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offense.
- Guilty: You admit that you committed the crime and accept a conviction.
- No Contest: You admit the facts of the case are correct and accept a conviction.
Why Plead Guilty or No Contest?
It might not make sense initially that someone would waive their right to a trial and plead guilty or no contest. The main reason someone would do so is if they had a plea bargain. This means that by pleading guilty (or no contest, in some cases), the judge will grant them a less severe sentence. In some cases, you can also plead to a lesser offense.
Is a No-Contest Plea Always an Option?
For some plea bargains, a no-contest plea is not an option and you will need to plead guilty to take advantage of the reduced sentence. Your lawyer will outline what the options are in your case.
Guilty vs No Contest
The difference between a guilty plea and a no-contest plea can be confusing. In many ways, they are very similar. Either way, you will be convicted and the judge will move forward with sentencing you for the crime.
The difference is that with a no-contest plea. You are not directly admitting guilt, although you are accepting the legal consequences of a conviction and are agreeing with the facts of the case. As we'll discuss in detail below, this distinction is usually only relevant in civil cases
No-Contest Pleas and Civil Cases
The main benefit of a no-contest plea cannot be used as evidence of liability in a civil case, whereas a guilty plea can.
As an example, if you were drinking and driving and were in an accident where someone else was injured, you could face driving under the influence (DUI) charges as well as a civil personal injury lawsuit. If you plead guilty, this could be used as evidence that you are also liable for the injuries in the civil case.
The intersection between a criminal case and a civil case can be complex and depends on a variety of factors. Pleading no contest may or may not be beneficial, so it's important to speak to a lawyer before your arraignment.
Criminal Defense Attorneys in Tucson
If you are facing charges, contact DUI Defense Team today to discuss your options.