What is the Difference Between Pleading Guilty or No Contest?
In California, a “no contest” plea and a “guilty” plea are two different types of pleas that a defendant can enter in a criminal case. While both pleas can result in a conviction, there are important differences between the two that are important to understand.
A “guilty” plea is an admission of guilt by the defendant. By entering a guilty plea, the defendant is acknowledging that they committed the crime that they are charged with and are waiving their right to a trial. In exchange for a guilty plea, the prosecution may offer the defendant a plea bargain, which is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecution that results in a reduced sentence or a reduced charge in exchange for the guilty plea. Once a defendant enters a guilty plea, the judge will enter a conviction and impose the sentence agreed to in the plea bargain.
A “no contest” plea, also known as a “nolo contendere” plea, is a plea in which the defendant does not admit guilt but agrees not to contest the charges against them. A “no contest” plea has the same legal effect as a guilty plea, in that the defendant is convicted and sentenced just as if they had entered a guilty plea. However, a “no contest” plea is different from a guilty plea in that it does not constitute an admission of guilt and cannot be used against the defendant in a civil lawsuit.
There are several reasons why a defendant might enter a “no contest” plea in California. One reason is to avoid the risk of a civil lawsuit. If a defendant pleads guilty, they are admitting that they committed the crime and this admission can be used against them in a civil lawsuit. A “no contest” plea, on the other hand, does not constitute an admission of guilt and cannot be used against the defendant in a civil lawsuit.
Another reason why a defendant might enter a “no contest” plea is to avoid the stigma of a criminal conviction. A guilty plea is a public admission of guilt, which can have a negative impact on the defendant’s reputation and their ability to find employment or housing in the future. A “no contest” plea, on the other hand, does not constitute an admission of guilt and does not carry the same stigma as a guilty plea.
Finally, a “no contest” plea can also be used as a way of resolving a criminal case quickly and efficiently. In some cases, a “no contest” plea may result in a lighter sentence or a reduced charge compared to a guilty plea, which can be an attractive option for the defendant.
It is important to note that a “no contest” plea is not available in all criminal cases in California. In some cases, such as cases involving certain types of crimes, a “no contest” plea is not an option and the defendant must either plead guilty or go to trial.