What Is The Difference Between A No Contest Plea And A Guilty Plea In Florida?
You may have heard about different types of pleas a defendant can enter in a criminal case. Pleas of guilty, not guilty, or guilty by reason of insanity are mostly self-explanatory. Less clear for most people, though, is the “no contest”, or nolo contendere plea.
A no contest plea means the defendant will not contest the facts upon which they are accused in a criminal matter. This authorizes the court to enter a sentence and punish the defendant as if a guilty verdict had been entered. However, a no contest plea often carries certain benefits that a guilty plea does not have for the defendant.
Benefits of a No Contest Plea for Defendants
When a defendant pleads no contest, they lose the opportunity to be found not guilty at trial. However, in some circumstances a no contest plea can have certain benefits for a defendant that concedes responsibility and wants to move on with their life.
- Avoiding the need for trial. The prospect of a criminal trial is an intimidating and often frightening prospect for somebody charged with any type of crime. There is the time and cost associated with a trial, and the stress of sitting in front of a jury as an accused defendant. Additionally, if a case proceeds to trial and a jury verdict, the defendant risks receiving the maximum penalties allowed under the law. Sometimes a no contest plea can be part of a negotiation for a lesser sentence. Further, if the defendant simply doesn’t dispute the facts of the case, they can sometimes avoid trial through a no contest plea.
- Avoidance of civil liability for the defendant’s actions. An admission of guilt can lead to a lawsuit from the victim based on that admission. For example, if a driver collides with another driver and pleads guilty to drunken driving or reckless driving, the facts of the criminal case can be submitted as evidence in a lawsuit by the driver that was hit. If the at-fault driver enters a no contest plea, however, the facts asserted in the charge are not admissible in a future civil case because there was no finding of guilt.
- Possibility of a lesser sentence as part of a plea deal. If the judge and prosecutor are willing to accept a plea of no contest from the defendant as part of plea negotiations, they may be more willing to show leniency at sentencing, or even dismiss another charge that was pending against the defendant. The no contest plea can serve as a bargaining chip where the defendant acknowledges the likelihood of a guilty verdict at trial, but seeks a lesser sentence or reduction/dismissal of other pending charges.
Whether a no contest deal is appropriate depends on the circumstances of your case, and the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The Orlando Criminal Defense Attorneys at Joshi Law Firm, PA Can Discuss All Plea Options with You
Pleading no contest to a criminal charge against you should only be done after careful consideration of all facts and evidence involved with your case. Consequences can include jail time, fines, and costs. However, a no contest plea has certain benefits and can often reduce the overall punishment you could face otherwise. Our Orlando criminal defense attorneys at Joshi Law Firm will carefully review the prosecution’s evidence, your potential defenses, and the sentencing options to determine whether a no contest plea might be a worthy option in your case.