Frequently Asked Questions About “No Contest” Pleas in Florida Criminal Cases
When you are arraigned on a criminal charge in Florida, the judge will ask you to enter a plea. In most cases, the defendant enters a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.” But there is a third option known as a plea of nolo contendere or “no contest.” Essentially, a plea of nolo contendere means that you do not admit guilt but you also do not wish to contest the government’s accusations at trial.
You should always consult with a qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney before entering a plea in any criminal matter. But if you are interested in learning more about how no contest pleas work, here are answers to some common questions about the law in this area.
Can a Judge Reject a No Contest Plea?
Yes. Under the Florida Rules of Court Procedure, a defendant may only enter a no contest plea “with the consent of the court.” And in fact, there are some judges who will generally reject a plea of nolo contendere. In such cases, the defendant must plead either guilty or not guilty.
Can I Still Be Sent to Jail After Entering a No Contest Plea?
Yes. Pleading nolo contendere means you are prepared to accept any lawful punishment that the court imposes for the charged offense. The fact you choose not to admit guilt or contest the charges has no bearing on the judge’s ability to sentence you as if you entered a guilty plea or a jury convicted you at trial.
Can the Judge Question Me About the Charges If I Plead No Contest?
Yes. Before accepting a no contest plea, the trial judge must question you to determine whether your plea was truly “voluntary” and that there is a “factual basis” to support the plea. This must be done in open court and the judge may allow the prosecution to ask you questions as well. If you choose to answer any questions about the alleged crime under oath, you may be subject to separate perjury charges if you give any false testimony.
If I Plead No Contest to a DUI Charge, Is It Still Considered a Conviction?
Yes. In Florida, pleading nolo contendere to a drunk driving charge still counts as a conviction and subjects you to the same mandatory sentencing requirements. However, since there is no admission of guilt, a no contest plea cannot be used against you in a civil lawsuit, such as a personal injury claim brought by anyone that you allegedly hit while driving under the influence.
Could a No Contest Plea Affect My Immigration Status?
Yes. If you are not a United States citizen, entering a no contest plea to any serious criminal charge may be grounds for deportation. A Florida judge must advise you of the potential immigration consequences before accepting a no contest plea, and you may seek additional time to reconsider options.
Contact Our Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
Even if you think you should plead guilty or no contest just to put a criminal case behind you, it is still in your interests to consult with an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney beforehand. Contact the Joshi Law Firm, P.A., today to schedule a free initial consultation.