There are usually two to three options to plea in a criminal case: guilty, not guilty, basically a plea of innocence, or no contest. While you may not always have the option to plead no contest to some crimes, you will always have the opportunity to plead either guilty or not guilty. If you are facing criminal charges but do not know how to handle the situation and how to plea, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. They can go over the criminal prosecution process with you and advise you on your best plan of action for your plea. Whether to plead guilty or not guilty will depend on the crime you are being charged with and the circumstances of the case. With misdemeanor crimes, you will likely be given the plea options of guilty, not guilty or no contest. With felony crimes, you will only be given the options to plea guilty or not guilty. Pleading guilty has its obvious consequences. You will be convicted and sentenced. If you lead not guilty, your case will not be decided upon right away. Depending on your crime, you could face several more court dates prior to trial. Don't plead not guilty just to take your case to trial if you won't have a good chance at winning. At a trial, someone else will be deciding if you are guilty or not so it isn't always the best choice. It may be in your favor to try to plead guilty to a lesser crime, also called a plea bargain, or to simply plead guilty to save yourself the cost of trial.
It is important to note that pleading not guilty does not absolve you of your responsibility for the crime. If you plead not guilty, your case will head to trial, at which point a judge or jury will determine whether your are to be found guilty or not guilty. At that point, your plea will be on the record however you may still be found guilty. Pleading not guilty does mean that liability for the crime is not established. This is relevant if any civil law suits result from your crime. For example, if you damaged someone's property in the course of your crime, that person could sue you to collect damages and would have up to three years to file the suit against you. If you plead guilty to the crime during your criminal prosecution, your liability is established. This makes the job of the person seeking damages, the plaintiff, easier as they have on paper your admittance of guilt for the crime. If you had plead not guilty, they would have the additional burden of proving you committed the crime and caused the damage. It is always a good idea to plead no contest if there could be any civil suit brought against you for your crime. Speak to an attorney about your case to see if this is something you should be concerned with.
The third option you may be given is to plead no contest or nolo contendere. Pleading no contest is not pleading guilty or not guilty but is an acceptance of punishment. Usually, once you plead no contest, you will be convicted and sentenced as if you had plead guilty. No contest is a wise plea when you do not want to bring your case to trial, or you feel you would be unsuccessfully at trial, but you do not want to admit guilt. For the purposes of protecting yourself from liability, pleading no contest can protect you from legal trouble down the road. You are essentially allowing the prosecution to convict and punish you without accepting responsibility for the crime. This is an acceptable plea to make if you are given the option and in most cases, it is a safer bet than pleading guilty. Overall, it is a good idea to discuss your plea options with an experienced attorney if you want to make all the right moves with your case.
If you are in the Visalia, Hanford or Tulare area and are facing criminal charges? The Law Offices of Christopher Martens is here to help you if you are unsure about the criminal prosecution process and don't know how to plead to your crime. Contact attorney Christopher Martens for expert counsel to ensure you are prepared for the court process and have the best chance at a favorable outcome as possible. Contact our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.