What's the Difference Between Guilty and No Contest?
If you’re arrested and charged with a crime, the first step in your trial is asking how you plead. You have three options for this question:
- “Not guilty,” which means you contest the criminal charges brought against you and you wish to be able to present your case as to why.
- “Guilty,” which means you don’t contest the charges, admit to the crime, and agree to the penalties for it.
- “No contest,” which has a similar meaning to pleading “guilty,” but with an important difference.
It’s this important difference between pleading “guilty” and “no contest” that we’ll discuss in more detail, since choosing the correct one can have tremendous influence over your life and your case going forward. In a nutshell, the difference between pleading “guilty” and “no contest” is the question of liability for the crime.
Admission of Liability
Pleading “no contest” has a huge benefit when you’re accused of a crime as a result of injuring someone. For example, say you were involved in a car accident and a breathalyzer test revealed that you were over the legal limit. Your Riverside criminal defense lawyer works out a deal that allows you to plead accept the charges in exchange for their being lowered to a “wet reckless,” which carries a far lighter sentence.
In this instance, you could choose to complete your half of the bargain by pleading “no contest” to the charges brought against you. Why would you want to do this? Simple: pleading “no contest” does not carry an admission of liability. This is particularly important in this example because car accidents that involve injuries also usually include an injury case that may be contested.
When you plead guilty to your charges, the other party in your injury case (or more often their insurance company) will usually use a guilty plea as evidence they can bring before a judge to demonstrate that you were at fault for the accident and thus should be held liable to compensate their client for their injuries and property damage.
By declaring “no contest,” you’re not admitting to this liability, and thus the other party can’t bring your conviction before an injury judge and/or jury as evidence. Thus, you can still fight back in your injury case and possibly hold the other driver accountable for their actions which could have contributed just as much, if not more to the accident which caused their injuries in the first place.
As you might imagine, pleading no contest doesn’t really benefit you in cases where there are no injuries or carried liability to worry about, such as a theft crime or most drug charges, but they could be invaluable when you’re also facing an injury lawsuit in addition to your criminal accusations.
You should always speak with a Riverside criminal defense attorney about your case to evaluate your options before making your ultimate plea decision. Call Blumenthal & Moore today to request more information!