When a defendant is charged with a crime, he or she may respond to the charges in one of three ways. While most people are familiar with pleading “guilty” or “not guilty” to a criminal charge, the third option — a plea of “no contest” — is less familiar.
No contest stems from the Latin phrase nolo contendere, which means “I do not wish to contest.” A no contest plea allows a person to accept punishment for a crime for which he or she does not admit guilt. Ultimately, the defendant is convicted of the crime and sentenced to punishment; however, they can avoid liability for their actions. This plea has certain drawbacks and benefits that could make it worthwhile in limited circumstances.
4 Situations in Which a “No Contest” Plea May Be Right for You
- Pleading “No Contest” Eliminates a Costly Trial. Going through a trial can take a significant amount of time that will interrupt your routine and affect your work schedule. A jury trial is also extremely resource-intensive, meaning it will cost much more to defend yourself if you choose to take your case to trial.
Your lawyer must prepare thoroughly for a jury trial, and trials are completed over the course of several days or weeks. The extra preparation and time it will take to resolve your case can push costs beyond your budget. Typically, people want to avoid trial, which is why many defense attorneys don’t quote you the cost of trial when you hire them. Anyone who wants to avoid a trial may enter a plea of no contest and negotiate the terms of their sentence with the prosecutor.
- Pleading “No Contest” Could Protect You from Civil Lawsuits. There are many cases in which a victim may attempt to sue the defendant in civil court for damages suffered during the commission of the crime.
Let’s say that two people got into a verbal argument, and it evolved into a physical altercation in which one of the two participants sustained injuries. The injured party could have a strong case for civil damages if the defendant pleads guilty to assault and battery. Without an official guilty plea, it may be more challenging for the victim to hold the defendant liable for their injuries. With a no contest plea, a defendant neither admits guilt nor has been proven guilty by a judge or jury of his peers.
- Pleading “No Contest” Could Lead to Reduced Penalties. If you face felony charges, it may be beneficial to plead no contest in your attempt to avoid being punished to the full extent of the law. You or your lawyer will need to meet with the prosecutor before entering your plea. The process may allow for your defense lawyer and the prosecutor to negotiate for reduced penalties in exchange for a no contest plea. This benefits prosecutors because they do not risk you being found not guilty at trial, meaning they’ll likely be open to pursuing reduced penalties.
- Pleading “No Contest” Could Help You Maintain Your Privacy. Your trial is a public hearing of all the evidence the state has against you. Your trial may not only take several days or weeks to resolve; it will also reveal your personal affairs to the public. If you wish to reduce the emotional consequences of going to court, discuss entering a plea of no contest with your lawyer.
If you think a plea of no contest may be right for your case, you should not make the decision without discussing your case at length with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
Is a Plea Bargain Right for You? Contact Brian Gabriel
In West Palm Beach, attorney Brian P. Gabriel has been helping defendants challenge the charges against them for more than 30 years. If you’re facing a charge of DUI, assault or battery, domestic violence, drug possession, or other charges, you deserve quality legal counsel from a competent and experienced lawyer.
For a free consultation, call 561-622-5575 or complete a contact form. At The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel, Brian Gabriel’s top priority is to help you win the most favorable outcome to your case.