Types of Pleas in Criminal Cases

Types of Pleas in Criminal Cases

Having criminal charges levied against you can be emotionally and financially draining. In a criminal case, the government brings to bear all of its resources to ensure that you are punished in a court of law. Conveying your innocence and protecting your rights is the job of your counsel. Despite the intimidating nature of this situation, you do have recourse. There are three primary pleas that a defendant can make to put themselves in the best possible situation when facing criminal charges. It is absolutely critical that a skilled criminal defense attorney be present when dealing with this situation.


Types of Pleas in Criminal CasesTypes of Pleas in Criminal Cases

There are three primary plea types in U.S. criminal court.


Guilty: This is the complete admission of all guilt in relation to all of the charges against you. This plea formally waives all rights in relation to charges, such as the right to appeal, a jury trial, contestation, etc. Most defense attorneys will only present this plea as a viable option to decrease the possibility of an elongated sentence. An attorney will only make this recommendation of there is a favorable deal with the prosecutor that reduces overall prison time or prevents additional charges from being brought against you.


Not Guilty: This is a complete denial of all charges levied against you. This is the most common type of plea that is filed in criminal court and almost certainly will result in a trial. This plea is important because it allows a skilled criminal defense lawyer to review and even contest all of the evidence levied against you during the discovery process at the onset of litigation. The discovery process allows your defense counsel to create an effective plan of defense to preserve your freedom.


No Contest: Pleading no contest means that the defendant neither agrees nor disagrees with the charges being brought against them. This means that a defendant will not contest the charges being brought but refuses to admit guilt to such charges; however, a judge will sentence the defendant as if they have admitted guilt. This type of plea is most commonly used when victims of the defendant’s conduct are pursuing a civil claim for damages because it cannot be used as an admission of guilt.


Types of Pleas in Criminal CasesAssociated Risks of a Criminal Plea

Each plea presented here has a risk factor that is associated with it. These risks make it of paramount importance that you hire a seasoned criminal defense lawyer to navigate these precarious waters.


Risks of a guilty plea: Pleading guilty is risky because it is a direct admission of guilt against all charges. This will be reflected on your permanent record and may increase the difficulty of finding stable employment. Additionally, your family and friends may distance themselves from you as a result of this outcome. A guilty plea is normally used when the evidence against you is so insurmountable that a trial would be a formality.


Risks of a not guilty plea: Pleading not guilty is the best way to preserve your innocence throughout a trial despite the outcome. However, the cost of such a move can be exceedingly costly. This plea is especially risky because it exponentially increases the amount of prison time served if you do not prevail at trial. Additionally, the cost of litigation is extremely high and you will still be liable for the costs.


Risks of a no contest plea: No contest is about as risky as a guilty plea, with the benefit of not admitting guilt. This plea is mainly to insulate defendants against the admission of guilt in a civil case.


If you or a loved one face criminal charge charges in the San Diego area, contact the Coastal Legal Center for a free consultation at 619-231-0724.