What is the difference between a guilty plea and a no contest plea?

Because our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Law Firm practices 100% criminal law, our criminal attorneys get asked many questions. One of the most common questions we are asked concerns pleas in criminal cases.

A “plea” is an accused person’s formal response of “not guilty”, “guilty”, or “no contest” to a criminal charge.

A “Not Guilty” plea is telling the court that you are going to fight the criminal charge. This plea denies that the defendant committed the crime and will force the prosecutor to prove the charge beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.

A “No Contest” plea is also referred to as a “nolo contendere” plea. This is Latin for “I do not wish to contend”. You are not admitting guilt with this plea, but this plea functions the same as a “Guilty” plea.

A “Guilty” plea is admitting responsibility for the crime.

Once you enter a plea of no contest or a plea of guilty, you will be sentenced for the crime. This may be a negotiated sentence between you, your criminal lawyer, and the prosecutor or a plea straight up to the judge. When you enter a “straight up” plea, your sentence will be determined by a judge. You are entitled to present all of the good things about you, including having witnesses testify on your behalf, having the judge read letters written for you, and having the judge listen to anything you want to say. You should discuss any possible pleas with your criminal attorney in Jacksonville.