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What is the Difference Between Pleading Guilty or Pleading No Contest?

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At Lotze Mosley, LLP, our Washington D.C. criminal defense attorney thoroughly outlines our clients’ rights when we take their cases. This includes their options on how they initially plead to their charges at the arraignment. The judge will read the defendant’s criminal charges and then give them the opportunity to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

A plea of not guilty means that you deny guilt or have a defense in your case. You are also demanding that the state prove the allegations at trial “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The plea of guilty and no contest are a little more involved. Here, we explain the differences.

Pleading Guilty or Pleading No Contest

Are Pleading Guilty and No Contest the Same Thing?

When a defendant pleads guilty, they are admitting to factual guilt.

By pleading guilty, a defendant waives his or her right to a jury trial, to confront the accuser, and to not incriminate himself or herself. Once the judge approves the plea, the case moves directly to the sentencing phase, and no jury trial is held.

The process for pleading no contest is very similar but with one distinct difference.

After pleading no contest, the defendant is found guilty by the court. A no-contest plea is a technical admission that the defendant will accept the sentence without admitting or denying guilt to the charge.

The most significant difference between pleading guilty and no contest is the admission of guilt associated with the charge.

This admission of guilt in the criminal case can be used to establish liability in the civil case — like a drunk driving case where an injured party or their family can pursue financial damages based on an admission of guilt.

In the same example, if the driver pleads no contest, no admission of guilt can be used in a civil lawsuit.

If you have been arrested for a crime, obtaining legal representation before your arraignment is crucial so you are aware of all your legal rights and options before entering a plea. Contact our skilled criminal defense attorney in Washington D.C. at Lotze Mosley, LLP, by calling (202)-393-0535. This will ensure your rights are protected from the beginning so you can make informed decisions about your future.

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