No Contest Plea

Calling all lawyers…

Okay, I get arrested for some crime, and for whatever reason I decide I really don’t want to fight the DA so I decide to plead No Contest.

  1. What does that really mean? That I did it but I don’t want to admit it and I don’t want to fight the charge?

  2. Why would the DA accept such a plea unless they really didn’t have much of a case anyway.

  3. Can the DA reject my plea and go ahead with the trial anyway? ’

  4. Why didn’t Michael Jackson just plead no contest and avoid a 10 million dollar defense?

See this. You’re willing to accept punshment, but you’re not admitting your guilty.

To spare the expense and time for a trial. The defendant goes to jail much as if he had pleaded guilty.

It’s possible, but not likely. The DA knows he’ll be sending you to jail; why run the risk a jury would let you off?

Because he would have had to go to jail. The $10 million bought his freedom.

I am not a lawyer, but as I understand it…

1- Almost. It is a way of ‘not contesting’ the charges but not admitting it. Whether you actually did it is not strictly relevant… for instance, someone who is being framed but does not have the resources to fight an extended court battle might plead nolo contendere rather than guilty as a matter of principle.

2- Like a guilty plea, ‘nolo contendere’ is quite likely to end up in a legal conviction… guilty in the eyes of the law. There are some legal ramifications to the fact that you, as the defendent have not confessed your guilt - like if you pleaded not guilty and lost at trial. But since you’re not contesting, then (normally) there aren’t any witnesses called or arguments made by either side.

3- First off, guilty pleas and ‘nolo contendere’ do result in trials, just very short ones, I think. I’m not sure about the DA… the judge can override either and insist on a full trial, IIRC.

4- As in #2, if MJ pleaded nolo contendere, he would almost certainly have been convicted, sentenced, and been seen as guilty in the eyes of the public, even if he hadn’t admitted it himself. The 10 million was what it cost to establish his innocence of these charges in the eyes of the law. (Whether the public as a whole is so easily won over, i’m not sure.)

Hope that helps. A lawyer will probably be by soon to correct any mistakes I made.

On preview: Hi realitychuck, great minds think rather alike! Are you a lawyer??

So how often does a defendent plead no contest? 10% of cases? 1%? I can’t imagine an innocent person, or a person who thinks he can get off, ever pleading no contest since the punishment would essentially be the same as if he was convicted of the crime instead.

My understanding is that you only plead “No Contest” if you and your lawyer think a conviction is likely. This could be because you are, in fact, guilty, or it could be because the prosecution has enough of a case to build against you to likely convince a jury you’re guilty, even if you aren’t.

If you’re paying for your own laywer on a case you know you’re likely to lose anyway, why go through the time and expense of a trial, to face the same sentence you could have taken six months ago (and be six months into serving)? Certainly, I’d plead no contest if I thought I could save my family some money and be home with my baby that much sooner if it’s a short sentence.

A long-term sentence? I dunno. It might be worth the gamble of a jury trial. I would talk to my lawyer and trust her to advise me on the strength of the prosecution’s case and her experience with getting off defandants like me.

IANAL or a defendant, just trying to provide some perspective from the layman’s side of the fence.

Thje way it was explained to me, by a lawyer friend, is that the no contest plea is the same as a guilty for that charge. The difference is if there is a civil suit, the no contest plea cannot be used against you.
Take this senario I get drunk, drive hit a kid and kill him. If I plead not guilty and am found guilty, the parents can sue me, and cite the conviction to the jury in the law suit. If I plead guilty I still get the punishment, and that conviction can also be used in the civil trial. If I plead no contest, I still get the punishment in criminal trial, but my punishment can’t be used against me in the civil suit.

A no contest plea is the functional equivalent of a guilty plea, although guilt isn’t actually admitted. Basically what you’re saying is that you’re not admitting to anything, but that you don’t want to fight the charges. As was stated, there are some advantages to pleading no contest for purposes of subsequent civil trials concerning admissable evidence, but ofr the criminal trial there’s no real difference

For the same reasons he or she would accept a guilty plea in a plea bargain; if the DA and the defense lawyer can come to an agreement on what the proper sentence should be and the DA has no problem with the defendant not admitting guilt, there’s no reason not to accept a no contest plea.

The DA can refuse to offer a plea agreement below the maximum, but has no power to refuse a no contest plea – you can’t make someone who wants to plead “guilty” plead “not guilty,” although you can take away all incetive to do so. The defendent can always, if he chooses, plead guilty or no contest and ask the judge to assess punishment, called an open plea.

Because he preferred a 10 million dollar defense to a prison sentence. No contest has the same effect for purposes of the criminal trial as pleading guilty.

Two important caveats I should add here: one, I’m talking about the law in my own little jurisdiction of Tejas, and two, although it’s up to the defendant what he wants to plead, the DA can refuse to waive the right to a jury and get the jury to find the defendent guilty despite the no contest plea. That takes away the option of the judge to assess deferred adjudication.


The prosecution has the right to a jury?

Yeah, that’s one important difference, possibly the major legal difference. I imagine that there’s also some people who plead no contest for reason of principle or psychology… that they don’t want to admit they done the deed.

That’s not exactly the language used, but yeah, that’s the effect. In Texas a waiver of a jury trial has to occur with the written consent of the court and the state’s attorney. You can elect to go to the judge for punishment, but the prosecution can get a jury trial against you in the guilt/innocence stage if they want one.

Since a plea of no contest will result in the court entering a finding of “guilty” against the defendant, there’s generally not much of a reason for a prosecutor to demand a jury trial to come in and find the defendent guilty. However, there is at least one circumstance where they might: to prevent the judge from giving the defendant deferred adjudication, if they were really pissed at the defendent and they thought there was some chance that the judge might do so. Deferred adjudicaton (and here I have to beg the reader’s indulgence, many of you will already know what it is but the conversation will be completely bewildering for those that don’t without an explanation) is a type of probation where entering a finding of guilt is put off to a later date; if the probationer successfully completes probation, the charges are dismissed and the crime will not go on his record.

However, under Texas law only a judge can defer a finding of guilt, either by pleading guilty to the judge or by pleading not guilty and having a bench trial before the judge. If the prosecution demands a jury trial on guilt/innocence, you can’t get deferred adjudication. The best you can do is get straight probation, which will mean a criminal conviction. This is often a good incentive to take the DA’s plea bargain. On the other hand, if the DA wants to make absolutely sure you don’t get deferred adjudication from the judge, they can demand a jury trial on guilt/innocence even though you’re pleading guilty or no contest; once the jury adjudicates guilt, the judge can’t grant deferred adjudiaction. This is a fairly rare thing, though. Judge’s don’t like it when they do this.

When would it be better to plead guilty than no contest? Would a guilty plea be considered more valuable when plea barganing?

When you’re undeniably as guilty as hell and want to show contrition and acceptance of responsibilty. I saw a trial a few weeks back where a guy shot his cousin while blind drunk, and nobody including him appeared to know why. That was a circumstance where they were basically begging the court to let him have probation, please don’t send him to prison, he’s changed, he’s stopped drinking, he has seven children, his momma says he’s a good boy, etc. If you’re going to take that position, pleading no contest would be kind of insulting.

Most prosecutors I deal with generally don’t care if the defendant wants to plead no contest. So long as they get their pound of flesh and the defendant agrees to the sentence they can live with, they don’t mind. Offering to plead guilty instead of no contest won’t win you any love from the DA; a no contest plea results in an entry of guilt anyway, and as stated, they generally don’t care one way or the other. I can see some circumstances where the facts were particularly egregious where they would want an admission of guilt in exchange for a plea agreement, and generally the more serious a crime is the less likely there is to be a no contest plea. I understand it’s only happened once in a Texas capital murder case, and the circumstances there were extremely unusual.

This thread flashed me back to Spiro “Nolo Contendere” Agnew.

For you yung un’s, he was the Vice President under Nixon.