Understanding No Contest Pleas

If you have been charged with a crime, you have several options when it comes to your plea. A plea, in legal matters, is a statement of culpability for an offense. No contest pleas are often misunderstood, so read on to learn more about pleas, and no contest pleas in particular.

Time to Plead

You will have an opportunity to enter a plea at some point in the process. After an arrest, the accused is usually asked to enter a plea during a court appearance known as an arraignment. Many defendants are still shocked by their arrest and haven't had a chance to seek legal counsel. Often, during the initial court appearance, defendants are likely to plead not guilty. A third option may also be available, however.

Pleading No Contest

No contest, or nolo contentere, translates from Latin roughly as "I do not contend". In other words, the defendant is not admitting guilt, nor are they contending that they are innocent. They are simply saying that they wish to accept the judge's sentence and the resulting punishment without going through a trial.

Understanding Plea Deals

The jails, prisons, and the court system suffer from constant and debilitating over-crowding. Plea deals or plea bargains allow those accused the opportunity to enter a plea and be sentenced in one act. This opens space in the jails and clears court calendars. These deals are often negotiated between the defendant's criminal law attorney and the prosecutor's office. The defendant, however, is under no pressure to accept the deal. In most cases, the plea deal involves the defendant pleading either guilty or no contest to a charge that is reduced in some manner from the original charges. The plea deal contains the charge, the counts, and the punishment. Plea deals can be beneficial for the defendant, but that depends on the circumstances.

Why Plead No Contest?

There is no real benefit, for most defendants, in entering a no contest plea over a not guilty plea. In some cases, the defendant gets personal satisfaction at not having to plead guilty. There is, however, a big benefit to a no contest plea in certain circumstances. Some cases call for both civil and criminal charges. For example, a defendant might be charged criminally with assault, due to a barroom fight. They may also end up being sued in civil court for assault or battery for money damages. In those cases, the defendant's plea of no contest might help mitigate damages in connection to the civil case.

Entering pleas is a complex issue, so discuss the ramifications with your criminal defense attorney.