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What Does it Mean to Plead No Contest?

It’s quite rare for a defendant to plead guilty without reaching a deal with the prosecution. Usually, the defendant will plead guilty and give up the right to a trial in exchange for either of the following:

  • Accepting a conviction for a lesser offense
  • Lessening the punishment for the offense the defendant was charged with

There is also the possibility to plead “no contest” for some offenses. The consequences for doing so are essentially the same as the results of a guilty plea, as the defendant will be convicted of a crime and accept some form of punishment. In doing so, however, the defendant does not admit any guilt. This means the defendant’s plea cannot be used against him or her in a related civil case as an admission of guilt or liability.

Why is this beneficial?

What makes a lack of admission of guilt beneficial for a person who pleads no contest?

Imagine you get into a fight and are charged with criminal assault by the district attorney in your area, and are then also sued by the other person in the fight for assault and battery. If you reach an agreement with the prosecution and plead no contest, you’ll take the penalties laid out for you in the criminal case, but still have not actually admitted guilt in the matter, meaning the result of your criminal case can’t be used against you in your civil case.

There are some exceptions to this, particularly in cases with crimes that could have been punished as felonies. It’s also important to note that a “no contest” plea is not going to be an option for every type of crime. But when available, it can be beneficial.

Before entering any plea, discuss the outlook of your case with an experienced Reading criminal defense attorney. Contact David R. Eshelman to learn more about your options.


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