When Should You Plead No Contest in Florida?
While you are driving, a police officer pulls you over and tells you that your brake light is not working. He advises you to get your light fixed and bring evidence of the repair, such as a receipt from a mechanic or a picture of the car with the light working, to traffic court, and he says that, if you do this, the judge should dismiss the case. At traffic court, do you plead innocent or guilty? In a case like this, the appropriate plea might be no contest, also sometimes called by its Latin name nolo contendere. Fixing a brake light is hardly a matter of innocence or guilt, but pleas of no contest have applications that go far beyond minor traffic violations. In Florida, a plea of no contest can be an option in criminal cases. How do pleas of no contest work, and when should you use one?
Not Guilty but Not Not Guilty
A plea of no contest does not constitute an admission of guilt; therefore, it is not the same as pleading guilty. It also does not constitute a denial that the defendant has committed the act with which he or she was charged; therefore, it is not the same as pleading not guilty. As for what happens immediately after you plead no contest, the procedure is much more like what happens with a guilty plea. Instead of both sides presenting evidence for what the defendant did or did not do, the court moves right to what, if anything, the defendant must do to remedy the situation.
Is a Plea of No Contest the Same as a Conviction?
The consequences of pleading no contest are very similar to the consequences of pleading guilty. If you plead no contest in a criminal case, you do not go to trial. You do not have the opportunity for your legal representatives to establish reasonable doubt as to whether you committed the act with which you were charged. Just like when you plead guilty, you can receive a sentence after pleading no contest. The only difference is that you do not admit guilt or fault. Just as a guilty plea can be part of a plea bargain, so can a plea of no contest. In criminal cases, judges often consider prior convictions when determining a sentence. According to Florida law, a prior plea of no contest counts as a prior conviction.
Should You Plead No Contest to Criminal Charges?
There is no simple formula for whether you should plead no contest when the judge offers you that option. It can be a desirable choice because it means that you are not admitting fault for the criminal act. Whether you plead no contest to a particular charge depends a lot on the specifics of the case, and you should consult a lawyer before making a decision about it.
Contact Bundza & Rodriguez About Plea Bargains
Bundza & Rodriguez is a Florida law firm that has advised many clients on how to plead in criminal cases. Contact Bundza & Rodriguez in Daytona Beach, Florida if you are facing charges in a criminal case.