When you’re facing a criminal charge, a no contest plea may be the right way to resolve the case. A no contest plea allows you to take advantage of a plea offer without admitting your guilt. A no contest plea is also called a plea of nolo contendere. It’s important to understand what a no contest plea is and what it can do for you. Here’s what you should know about no contest pleas from our Newton criminal defense attorney Richard R. Fink.
Yes, nolo contendere is a conviction. Pleading nolo contendere means that the court finds you guilty. A conviction for the offense appears on your criminal record, and you receive a sentence from the court as though you had pleaded guilty. A nolo contendere plea is a conviction for the offense only without the step of admitting any facts that make you guilty of the offense.
The difference between pleading guilty and no contest is that when you plead guilty, you admit your guilt whereas when you plead no contest, you ask the court to convict you without you admitting guilt. The effect of a guilty plea and a no-contest plea are the same. In both cases, the defendant is convicted of the offense and sentenced. However, in the case of a no-contest plea, the defendant doesn’t have to say that they’re guilty of the offense.
PA Rule of Criminal Procedure 590 is the court rule for accepting pleas. The rule gives instructions for how a judge accepts a no contest plea. Specifically, the judge must make sure that the defendant understands the effect of their no contest plea. They must ask the defendant if they know the range of possible sentences. The plea must be voluntary and made with an understanding of the consequences.
There are several reasons why you should plead no contest. If you don’t remember the events of the offense because of a medical issue or intoxication, a no contest plea allows you to accept a favorable agreement even though you’re unable to state the facts that make you guilty. Another reason to plead no contest is to avoid civil liability when someone else claims damages based on the underlying events. Pleading no contest is advantageous in circumstances when you can’t or don’t want to state what makes you guilty of the offense.
Are you facing criminal charges? Do you think a no contest plea may be right for you? We invite you to contact criminal defense attorney Richard R. Fink for a consultation about your case. Let him explain how no contest plea bargains work in Pennsylvania. Let him give you a personalized evaluation of whether you can take advantage of a no contest plea. Call us today.