Pros and Cons of a No-Contest Plea
When you have committed a crime, the first court appearance you will make is called an arraignment. At that time, you will be informed of the charges against you and asked if you have legal representation. This proceeding takes place prior to your trial, and you must enter a guilty, not guilty, or no-contest plea.
The first two pleas need no definition. However, many people are not familiar with the no-contest option, which the prosecutor and the judge must accept before it may go forward. Translated from the Latin nolo contendere, a no-contest plea means that you are not publicly admitting to guilt, but you are agreeing that the facts of your case are valid. You are agreeing to accept a conviction and the consequences of the charges.
A no-contest plea has some similarities to a guilty plea, except that the victim in the case cannot file a lawsuit against you in a civil court for damages later on. This fact may seem as though a no-contest plea is a win-win for the defendant. However, every state has rules as to whether or not such a plea is acceptable in every type of case.
In Texas, for example, no-contest pleas are not an option if you have committed a felony or if the victim files a lawsuit in a civil court for a considerable amount of money because they sustained a serious injury or incurred heavy property losses related to your charge.
What Are the Pros of a No-Contest Plea?
There are a number of positive factors that can result from pleading no contest. After a consultation with your lawyer, you may decide that it is a good option for you. Here are some of the pros for nolo contendere:
- If it appears that your defense for the charge is very weak, you will probably want to plead no-contest because the chances are good that you will be found guilty if you go to trial.
- You will avoid the mounting costs of extending your legal representation and piling up court fees.
- You will not have to spend time worrying while waiting to be tried.
- If you do not go to trial, you will not have to bear the shame of airing your charges publicly.
- When you plead no contest, you may be viewed in a positive light for complying with the law.
- Often, defendants receive a lighter sentence if they enter a no-contest plea than if they go to trial.
- There is no possibility of having to pay damages in a civil lawsuit related to your charges.
What Are the Cons of Pleading No Contest?
- You give up your right to a jury trial.
- There will definitely be a conviction.
- Your criminal record will include the no-contest plea, which reflects an element of guilt.
- Your conviction record can be referred to (but not used to prove guilt) if you stand trial for a criminal offense in the future.
- A no-contest plea can work against you when you’re seeking employment, applying for loans, living in certain locations, and in child custody actions.
- People will have the perception that you are guilty.
Should I Enter a No-Contest Plea If I am Innocent?
Although most criminal cases are plea-bargained, you should enter a no-contest plea if you are innocent of the charges leveled against you. By doing so, you are, in effect, pleading guilty. Instead, work with an experienced attorney to build a strong defense for your jury trial. In any case, it is always best to consult with your lawyer as to which type of plea will be most beneficial to you based on the specifics of your case.
Can I Appeal a No-Contest Plea?
An individual who is convicted of a crime and has received a sentence may, in certain circumstances, appeal their no-contest plea. Those circumstances include:
- You didn’t understand the consequences of accepting a plea bargain
- Your attorney didn’t advise you properly on the plea bargain
- You were coerced to enter the plea bargain
- The clerk of the court made a mistake
- Your judgment or mental capacity was impaired when you entered the plea
If you have entered a no-contest plea and wish to appeal it, obtain the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
The knowledgeable Collin County criminal defense lawyers of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian have the expertise and the resources to provide the very best in legal representation for your case. Call (972) 369-0577, chat with us online, or reach out to us by submitting our contact form for a quick response. We focus on every client’s individual situation so we can achieve the best possible outcome.
Our initial consultation is free, so don’t put off what might turn out to be one of the most important experiences of your life. And remember: We answer the phone every time.