Should You Plead No Contest Or Something Else? How To Know
After being arrested, all defendants are brought before a judge and asked to enter a preliminary plea. You have a choice of three different pleas and many are confused when confronted with those options. Read on to find out more about pleas including the puzzling no-contest plea.
What is a Plea?
The word plea is a bit confusing since you are not actually pleading for your innocence or anything else. Instead, it's how you wish the state to view your case. Pleas are not set in stone and you can change your plea at any time. However, your initial plea could influence your case outcome because it sets certain things in motion. Guilty pleas, for example, could shorten your experience considerably and not in a good way. Everyone is entitled to a fair trial and the process leading up to that trial is best handled by entering a not guilty plea, at least at first.
The meeting in which you enter your initial plea is often called an arraignment, but it can be called other things in various locales. Also at the arraignment, you may be offered (or denied) bail and given the opportunity to ask for a public defender to represent you. Do not plead guilty at the arraignment no matter what. At this early date, a not guilty plea is highly advisable. You may want to change your plea to guilty or no contest later, depending on how things work out.
Get An Attorney
You will need a criminal defense attorney, even for misdemeanors. Minor and first-time offenses can and do result in jail time, expensive fines, and other punishments. Your lawyer will work with the state prosecutor's office to learn about the evidence and help negotiate any plea deals. In some cases, that deal is better than taking your case to trial. However, know what the ultimate potential punishment might be if you go to trial before you decide by discussing things with your attorney.
Some confusion exists about the no-contest plea. It doesn't mean that you are not making a plea or that you don't care what happens. It just means that you are not claiming to be not guilty and will accept whatever the court decides to do as a result. It's very similar to a guilty plea, but you are not technically admitting guilt. The sentencing may not be affected either way by a no-contest or a guilty plea. No-contest pleas may be used alongside plea bargains, but a guilty plea to at least a lesser charge is more common.
To find out more about the type of plea to enter and when to enter it, speak to a criminal lawyer.