No Contest (Nolo Contendere)
One option available to a defendant who cannot admit guilt is to negotiate an agreement that allows the defendant to plead “no contest” instead of “guilty.” If you plead “no contest,” you do not admit guilt or claim you are innocent. You simply acknowledge that the prosecution has enough evidence to prove you committed a crime and you agree not to contest the charges. You’re not simply entitled to enter such a plea, however. The prosecution must agree to a “no contest” plea, the judge must allow it.
Another option available to a defendant who cannot admit guilt is an Alford plea. When a defendant enters an Alford Plea, he pleads guilty but asserts his innocence while acknowledging that the prosecution likely can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. An Alford plea is not as common as a “no contest” plea but it is still available to defendants and used in a small percentage of criminal cases. Like a “no contest” plea, an Alford plea is only permissible if the prosecutor agrees and the judge allows it.
Negotiating an Alford or “No Contest” Plea
Because the prosecutor must agree to an Alford or “no contest” plea before you can use it, the defense must negotiate this issue in advance. The defense first must make sure that the prosecutor will agree to the alternative plea. In felony cases, the parties often sign a written plea agreement before going to court. The fact that the defendant will be pleading “no contest” or entering an Alford plea should be included in the written agreement.
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*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.