When charged with a criminal offense, you might be overwhelmed by figuring out what to do. You have several options, including entering a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A no-contest plea, also known as a nolo contendere plea, is one in which the defendant does not admit guilt but accepts punishment as if they had pled guilty.
This type of plea is often used when the defendant wants to avoid a lengthy trial or public admission of guilt. However, you should not automatically plead no contest.
Advantages of Pleading No Contest
When facing criminal charges, you should consider the effects of the plea you choose to enter on the record. The advantages of entering a no-contest plea include:
- Avoiding a public admission of guilt: One of the most significant advantages of a no-contest plea is that it allows you to avoid making a public admission of guilt. This can be beneficial when you do not want to risk being found guilty by a judge or jury and don’t want to admit guilt. In addition, when you plead no contest, you increase the chances of maintaining your reputation and avoiding other harmful consequences that may follow an admission of guilt.
- Potentially reducing your sentence: Depending on the discussion with the prosecutor, a no-contest plea may reduce your sentence compared to the one you’d receive after a guilty plea or being found guilty at trial. This is because a no-contest plea does not require the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, saving the prosecution time and money preparing and going to trial may result in their willingness to reduce your sentence.
- Avoiding a lengthy trial: When you plead no contest, you can avoid going to trial. Trials can be time-consuming and expensive. They can also be emotionally taxing. By entering a no-contest plea, you can save time and money while avoiding the stress and unpredictability of a trial.
Disadvantages of Pleading No Contest
While there are various benefits to entering a no-contest plea, there are also several drawbacks that should be considered, including:
- No chance of acquittal: Your case is closed when you enter a no-contest plea. As a result, you have no chance to fight the charges, and you lose the potential of being found not guilty by a judge or jury. Therefore, pleading no contest may not be the best option in some circumstances.
- Limited ability to appeal: When you plead guilty or no contest, you waive your right to appeal the case. This means that if new evidence shows you did not commit the crime, you may be unable to appeal your conviction.
- Less control over sentencing: Unlike with a guilty plea, there may be no plea bargain with a no-contest plea. Therefore, you have less control over your sentence. This means you could end up with a harsher sentence than you would have received if you negotiated a plea bargain and entered a guilty plea.
- Negative consequences: While a no-contest plea does not involve an admission of guilt, it may still be considered a conviction on your record. If it is a conviction, your no-contest plea can lead to you having difficulty finding jobs, getting into school, getting professional state licensure, etc.
Should I Plead No Contest?
If you are facing criminal charges, consider all your options and weigh what is important to you. For example, when considering whether to plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest, you should consider the following:
- Legal consequences: You should consider each option’s legal consequences before entering your plea. The consequences may vary depending on the facts of your case. You can go over the different consequences of each action with your attorney.
- Evidence: When considering your plea, you must consider how much evidence there is against you. If the prosecution has substantial evidence, a no-contest plea may be beneficial.
- Personal circumstances: You must consider your circumstances, such as your criminal record. You may face a harsher sentence if you have a criminal record if you are found guilty at trial.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges, you should contact an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense attorney who can walk you through your options and help you decide what is best for your situation. The attorneys of Hart Powell, S.C. have experience defending clients in criminal cases. Using that experience, we can let you know if we think a no-contest plea is your best option.