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Types of Pleas in a Criminal Case

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When a person is accused of a crime or traffic offense, they must submit a formal response to the charges against them, which is known as a plea. If you have been arrested, or are facing criminal charges, you will be asked to enter a formal plea at the arraignment stage of the criminal process. The types of pleas in a criminal case are not guilty or guilty and, in certain circumstances, you may also have the option of entering a nolo contendere (no contest) plea.

It is ultimately your decision as to which plea to enter, but it is prudent to seek the guidance of a criminal defense lawyer before making such a choice or accepting a plea deal. The plea stage is the starting point of the criminal process and it is crucial that you understand the implications of each type of plea, particularly because some are easier to take back than others.

Before you enter a plea, discuss all your options with an experienced Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer. Call Luftman, Heck & Associates and attorney Brad Groene at (513) 338-1890 for a free consultation.

What Does a Guilty Plea Mean?

Entering a guilty plea is an admission that you committed the offense for which you have been charged. A guilty plea has significant implications in a criminal case because you are admitting to the wrongdoing alleged by the prosecutor, which means you could face the maximum criminal penalties for committing the offense.

If you plead guilty to the offense, you can expect to proceed straight to sentencing. Therefore, it is highly unusual for someone to plead guilty to a crime at the arraignment stage. It may be possible to withdraw a guilty plea before the judge has accepted it, but it cannot be taken back once a sentence has been imposed.

Depending on the specific facts of a case and the severity of the offense, it may be in your best interest to have your attorney try and negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf. In a plea bargain, you plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence or charge. You should always consult with a criminal defense attorney before entering a guilty plea or accepting a plea bargain.

What Does a Not Guilty Plea Mean?

Pleading not guilty means that you are claiming you did not commit the crime of which you are accused. When you enter a plea of not guilty, you are contesting the allegations made against you and the government will be responsible for proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you have committed the offense charged. After a plea of not guilty is entered, the judge will schedule a date for your pretrial or trial.

Pleading not guilty gives your attorney the opportunity to begin investigating, examining the evidence against you, and preparing your case for trial. At any point in the criminal process, your attorney may enter plea negotiations with the prosecutor. Should you want to accept a plea bargain, you can always change your initial not guilty plea so long as final judgment has not been entered.

What Does a No Contest Plea Mean?

A plea of no contest means that you are not admitting guilt, but you do accept that the facts alleged in the charging document are true. In misdemeanor cases, a no-contest plea requires the prosecutor to explain the circumstances of the offense to the court, but there is no such obligation in felony cases. No contest pleas are not available in every criminal case and are typically part of a negotiated plea bargain.

Practically speaking, pleading no contest usually has the same consequences as pleading guilty, but you will generally be sentenced without a trial. A conviction that results from a no contest plea and one that follows a guilty plea has the same long-term repercussions.

However, one important difference between the two is that a no contest plea cannot be used against you in a subsequent civil or criminal case as evidence of liability because there is no admission of guilt. Furthermore, a no contest plea may allow you to appeal certain court rulings that would not be available if you plead guilty.

How Our Experienced Cincinnati Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help

If you have been accused of a crime, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as early in the criminal process as possible. The Cincinnati criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates can act immediately to protect your rights after an arrest, help you understand your options, and negotiate with prosecutors to fight for the best outcome possible in your case.

Call us today at (513) 338-1890 for a free consultation with a knowledgeable Cincinnati criminal defense attorney.