After an arrest and charge, a defendant may choose to seek a jury trial or accept a plea agreement with the prosecutor. There are several options your Indiana criminal defense attorney will discuss with you. Plea bargains that include guilty, not guilty, and not guilty by reason of insanity, have obvious definitions. However, a plea bargain of no contest, also known as a Nolo Contendere plea, often requires clarification.
Although the terms “guilty” and “no contest” may be used interchangeably, they do not have the same meaning nor the same implication for the defendant. If you are facing criminal charges, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand the plea agreements that are possible.
Although plea agreements are common, it is not guaranteed that you’ll get one. Defendants are not guaranteed or entitled to a plea deal. Whether or not the prosecutor negotiates with your defense attorney will depend on the facts of the case. It is important to consider that a plea deal may not be the right choice in your circumstances.
What Is the Difference Between Pleading Guilty or Pleading No Contest?
When a defendant pleads guilty, they are admitting to factual guilt. In essence, the defendant tells the court that they committed the offense as they were charged. This becomes part of the court record.
By pleading guilty, a defendant waives their right to a jury trial, to confront the accuser, and to not incriminate themselves. Once the judge approves the plea, the case moves directly to the sentencing phase and no jury trial is held.
The process for pleading no contest is very similar, but with one distinct difference. After pleading no contest, the defendant is found guilty by the court. A no-contest plea is a technical admission that the defendant will accept the sentence without admitting or denying guilt to the charge.
Why Choose a Plea Agreement?
In most cases, a defendant pleads not guilty during their first court appearance. This gives their criminal defense attorney time to evaluate the evidence and the case against their client. During this time, your attorney may enter into negotiations with the prosecuting attorney for a plea bargain.
There are several benefits to taking a plea bargain, which include:
- The prosecution’s case: If the prosecution has a weak case, they may approach your attorney with a favorable plea agreement.
- Money: While you have the right to a trial by jury, trials can last for weeks and often cost more than you may have anticipated. If you’re found guilty, you also face fines and court fees.
- Penalties: If you’re found guilty at trial, the judge can sentence you to the maximum amount of time and fees. This can add up to thousands of dollars and decades in prison. Depending on your charge, your criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that includes the minimum sentence allowed.
Benefits of a No Contest Plea
The greatest difference between pleading guilty and pleading no contest is the admission of guilt associated with the charge. This admission of guilt can be used against a defendant in a civil case. For example, if an intoxicated driver causes an accident, the driver can be cited for several criminal offenses.
If the driver pleads guilty, they admit to the operative facts and legal guilt. The driver may also be sued in a civil case. If they plead guilty, the admission of guilt in the criminal case can be used to establish liability in the civil case. When the driver enters a plea of no contest, there is no admission of guilt that can be used in a civil lawsuit.
It is important to note that if a defendant pleads no contest to a crime, the crime can still be treated as an aggravating factor if the defendant commits a crime in the future.
Contact The Criminal Defense Team Today for Help With Your Criminal Charges
If you’ve been arrested and have criminal charges against you, call the experienced and skilled Indiana criminal defense attorneys of The Criminal Defense Team. Our legal team has five board-certified criminal defense lawyers who can represent you anywhere in Indiana.
We understand how stressful and scary the criminal justice system can be. Our attorneys are skilled negotiators and tenacious litigators. It is our aim to defend and protect your rights in a criminal case. Call our office today at (317) 565-2221 or contact us online for your first consultation.