It is pretty well-known, or can be easily determined with a quick online search or an afternoon spent at the movies, that when a person is charged with a crime, at some point they enter a plea to the charges. There are a few choices when you enter a plea, and you need to understand the different types of pleas in order to make the right choice for you. You can enter a Guilty Plea, a Not Guilty plea, or a Plea of No Contest. Entering a Guilty Plea is pretty self-explanatory; it means that the defendant is agreeing they committed the act with which they are charged. But, the difference between a Not Guilty Plea and a Plea of No Contest is not quite as clear.
Here are the key differences in pleading Not Guilty versus pleading No Contest to a charge in Florida:
1. When you enter a Not Guilty Plea you are formally denying the charges, with no wiggle room for an admission or for speculation as to what type of plea you are entering.
2. When you enter a Plea of No Contest, you are neither denying nor admitting the charges. Instead, a No Contest Plea is a statement that you do not contest the charges against you. You are not admitting guilt, but you are admitting the basic facts.
The legal consequences of each type of plea is reason enough to understand the difference, so you can enter a plea that won’t end up hurting you in the long run.
A No Contest Plea is frequently used when a defendant wants to avoid having to go to trial, and also does not want the plea used against them later, if the case becomes difficult to defend. Also, a Guilty Plea can be used against a person in a civil lawsuit. So, a No Contest Plea will be best for a defendant who is resolving a case that could lead to a lawsuit, such as battery. A Not Guilty Plea will not ultimately lead to a trial, so you have to be confident in your position if you decide to make this choice. During a trial, you will be required to present evidence that supports your position, and then allow either the Judge or jury to weigh the evidence and come to a conclusion. History buffs will remember that one of the most famous Not Guilty Pleas entered in the history of criminal law is the one entered by O.J. Simpson, when he was charged with murder. In that case, the entry of a Not Guilty Plea resulted in a historically long trial, with an ultimate jury verdict of Not Guilty as well.
If you are not sure what type of plea makes sense for you, call our office for help. It is our job to review the facts of your case and analyze them alongside the law, and then provide you with sound advice on how to proceed.
If you have questions about how to plea in a criminal case, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West.