What Will Pleading “No Contest” Do to My Case?
There are many types of pleas rather than just “guilty” or “not guilty.” One that is widely misunderstood is the plea of no contest to a criminal case. It is similar to pleading guilty, but legally, there are a few differences that you need to understand. The state of New Mexico does allow a plea of no contest (nolo contendere) for some types of cases. This means, however, that you are telling the courts that you concede to the charge without actually admitting your guilt or presenting any defense of your actions.
Unlike an innocent or guilty plea, you must get the court’s approval to plead no contest – meaning that a judge must approve it before it can be entered.
The Difference Between a Guilty and No Contest Plea
Sometimes, there is no difference at all. If you do plead guilty, you are admitting to the facts of the case as well as the legal consequences of those facts. The benefit to a no contest plea is that while you are admitting the facts, you are technically not admitting guilt. Therefore, you avoid trial and you are not liable civilly later, since you did not plead guilty. You can also appeal rulings by the court, such as those that allowed evidence to be used.
Pleading no contest for a misdemeanor is also different than for a felony. If you plead no contest to a misdemeanor, the judge will still determine if you are guilty or not. Your no contest plea could also result in a “guilty” finding, regardless of whether you plead no contest.
The Court’s Discretion is at Play
In general, a no contest plea will not be allowed for death penalty cases. But, a judge does have his or her own discretion when deciding if a no contest plea is adequate. If the facts show that a defendant is innocent, a judge will not allow a no contest plea. But, in order to accept it, a judge must also ensure that the defendant understands and is voluntarily admitting guilt without influence (via threat or promises). Also, he or she must understand the legal consequences of that no contest plea before it can be accepted.
The Legal Advantages to No Contest Pleas
When you plead no contest, there are a few advantages:
- You can avoid going to trial on the charge. This is a good thing if the outcome of the case is uncertain or you do not want the facts of the case aired to the public.
- The plea cannot be used against you in civil court like a “guilty” plea can.
The Legal Disadvantages to a No Contest Plea
There are also disadvantages to pleading no contest, including:
- You are not off the hook for the crime. You have the same consequences of a guilty plea, and will face the penalties if you are convicted by the courts.
- The judge may not be lenient, even if you plead no contest. So, you could face maximum sentencing regardless of whether or not you choose to plead no contest.
Should I Plead No Contest?
There are long-term consequences to doing so; therefore, you need to speak with a criminal defense attorney before deciding if pleading at all is in your best interest. An attorney can advise you based on your particular situation and discuss the impacts of such pleas.
Contact a New Mexico Criminal Defense Attorney
Before you take any plea, you need to speak with an attorney. The team at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices will explore your options, discuss plea deals, and help decide which route is best based on the evidence. Contact us today to discuss your case at 505-375-4661, or contact us online with your questions.