At first, the pleas of “no contest” and “guilty” may sound like the same plea. If you’re pleading guilty, then you are accepting the consequences of the crime. And if you are pleading “no contest,” then this means you do not contest the charges against you and are therefore guilty, right?
In fact, in the state of California, there are times when it is actually better to plead guilty than “no contest.” One such time is if you are being charged with a DUI. You may want to talk to a DUI lawyer in Los Angeles to determine whether your case calls for a no-contest plea.
California’s “No Contest” Plea
When you enter a plea in a criminal case, you can enter one of three pleas: guilty, not guilty, or the lesser-known “no contest.” The state of California is a rarity in that most states don’t even allow you to plead “no contest” to a DUI charge. Even within California, there are some areas that prohibit this plea.
Our lawyers here at the Simmrin Law Group are familiar with the local courts and can advise you on which judges will allow you to enter a no contest plea in the state of California.
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Guilty vs. No Contest
If you plead guilty to a criminal charge in the state of California, you are not going to fight the charges against you and agree to accept whatever sentence the judge orders. If you plead not guilty, this means that you are claiming to be innocent of the charges against you, and you will need to stand trial.
If, however, you plead no contest, all you’re doing is saying you won’t fight the charges against you. It’s like shifting into neutral when driving. You’re not saying you’re innocent, but you’re not saying you’re guilty either. However, you will still be found guilty and sentenced if you enter a plea of no contest, just the same as if you plead guilty.
The Pros of a No Contest Plea
It may be hard to see the benefits of entering a no contest plea on the surface. After all, you will still be found guilty and have a conviction on your record just as you would if you plead guilty. You will still face the same difficulties that come along with a conviction, including having it show up when employers run a background check.
However, there is one area in which the difference between a no contest and a guilty plea is quite significant. That comes in if you are facing a civil lawsuit in addition to the criminal charges. If the incident that resulted in your DUI charge involved property damage or injuries, you could be faced with lawsuits from anyone who suffered damages.
If you enter a plea of guilty in your criminal trial, you are handing the plaintiff in any potential lawsuit a very powerful weapon to use in their case against you. An admission of guilt is a very difficult thing to try to overcome. With a plea of no contest, on the other hand, you haven’t admitted to anything. You merely agree not to fight the charges.
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When to Enter A Not Guilty Plea Instead
When a defendant pleads guilty or no contest, it means they simply want to be done with the whole ordeal. However, the case does not become as open-and-shut as they think it’s going to be. A conviction comes with consequences that can follow you around for years – possibly even for life.
You may want to speak with a lawyer before entering a plea, so you can be sure you are using the right strategy. Your only chance to defend yourself is when you enter a plea of not guilty. Any other plea is a waiver of your right to a trial. Sometimes, a trial can be too risky, and it’s better to plead guilty or no contest.
A criminal defense lawyer can best advise you as to whether you should enter a not guilty plea.
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Why Should I Enter a Plea of No Contest?
The most common reason that people enter a no contest plea is to avoid a guilty plea or guilty conviction being used against them in a civil lawsuit. If a defendant is not confident of an acquittal, or simply wants to avoid the time and stress of a courtroom trial, they may wish to enter a plea of no contest.
Another common reason for entering a no contest plea is to keep the details of your case from becoming public record. By agreeing to enter a plea of no contest, you can control the narrative somewhat. You can agree to certain facts that prove the case against you, and other details about the case will be sealed.
Why Shouldn’t I Enter a Plea of No Contest?
Of course, if you believe you can win your case, you will likely prefer to plead not guilty so that you can fight for an acquittal in court. However, this is not the only reason that a plea of no contest might not be in your best interest.
When it comes to sentencing, many judges look favorably upon those who enter a guilty plea. They view this plea as a sign of remorse from the defendant. Enter a plea of no contest will be unlikely to move the judge to an act of leniency, and the penalties you face could be quite severe.
Negotiating a Plea Deal
One of the main reasons that defendants plead guilty is as part of a plea bargain agreement. The prosecution will often offer a defendant a plea deal for one reason or another. The main reasons that a defendant is likely to receive a plea bargain are to avoid clogging up the court with a lengthy trial and because it is a guaranteed win for the prosecution.
The prosecution will offer a defendant a deal that often includes a reduction of charges and a reduced sentence in return for the defendant pleading guilty to the lesser charge. In some situations, your lawyer might be able to negotiate with the prosecution so that you can enter a no contest plea.
If you are looking at a first offense DUI charge, your lawyer might be able to negotiate the charge down to “wet reckless” and get the prosecution to agree to a plea of no contest.
In this scenario, you would be convicted of a wet reckless charge and face the corresponding penalties. However, you would not have to face the penalties of a DUI conviction, and your defense in any civil lawsuits would not be hindered by a guilty plea in your criminal case.
Considering Entering a No Contest Plea? Call Us First!
Being charged with a crime can be draining and frightening to the point where you just want to make a no contest plea and be done with it. However, this decision should not be taken lightly. You will not get a second chance to defend yourself against these charges. Once you plead no contest, that’s it. You now have a DUI conviction on your record.
Don’t make a decision that could haunt you for the rest of your life alone. Our criminal defense lawyers have a long history of helping people just like you. We’re here to review your case and help you decide which plea is the right path to take.
Fill out our online contact form or give us a call to speak with a member of our highly experienced team today. You will receive a free case evaluation, free of judgment and with no obligation to retain.