When you enter your initial plea in the court, most people think you can
choose to declare yourself either “guilty” or “not guilty.”
However, there are other options as well. You could choose to declare
“no contest” to your charges, which has a slightly different
effect from these two. Let’s look at this plea further on this blog.
What “No Contest” Means
A “no contest” plea can essentially be thought of as a secondary
way of declaring guilty, but with an added advantage. By declaring no
contest, you are admitting to the court that you are not contesting the
charges against you, and that the court is free to convict you of the act.
If you plead no contest, a number of consequences will occur. First off,
you will be subject to the penalties you are facing as a result of your
charges. If your crime is a misdemeanor or felony, it will be entered
into your criminal record, and you will be subject to the consequences
of that (including reduce employment opportunities, loss of employment,
Why Choose a “No Contest” Plea
In many cases, a “no contest” plea is entered when the defense
expects to receive something in exchange from the prosecution. For example,
a defendant may choose to plead “no contest” to their charges
if the defense and the prosecution have struck a plea deal which gives
the defendant a lighter sentence in lieu of undergoing a full trial. In
many cases, this works well for both parties as justice is served on the
perpetrator of a crime, and the justice department is able to save its
precious resources by avoiding a full trial.
However, the most common use of a “no contest” plea is to avoid
liability in a related civil case. For example, say a drunk driver crashed
into a storefront, damaging the business and lots of its merchandise.
Upon criminal arraignment for the DUI charge, the defendant may wish to
plead “no contest” to this case in order to avoid having the
“guilty” plea on record.
This is because the shop owner’s insurance company will likely attempt
to sue the driver and their insurance company for the damages to the storefront
in a civil suit. In this case, the store and their insurance could use
the “guilty” plea as evidence to support the drunk driver
for being the at-fault party. However, a “no contest” plea
most often cannot be entered as evidence to support the case, instead
meaning the civil suit may be contested at which point the driver may
be able to absolve themselves of liability (such as if the accident was
actually caused by a defective tire blowing out which forced the driver
to lose control).
If you are facing criminal charges of any kind, you should consult with
an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer before going to trial
and entering a plea of any kind. Attorney
Melvin L. Vatz has more than 38 years of experience standing up for those who are facing
criminal charges. Since 1976, Attorney Vatz has focused on practicing
criminal and civil law with the belief that everybody facing criminal
charges deserves a skilled and dedicated ally on their side. He has successfully
helped clients face both misdemeanor and felony charges on both a state
and federal level.
Call the Law Office of Melvin L. Vatz today at 412.453.3341 to request a
free case evaluation and get help with your criminal charges!