You may have seen on television shows where a person charged with a crime is in court and says to the judge either “guilty” or “not guilty”. This happens after a person has been arrested and charged with a crime. They will then appear in court at an arraignment and enter the plea they decide on. It is not always as simple as it is portrayed on television however, because it is not black or white. This blog will provide more information on the different types of pleas a defendant can make and what they each mean.
As always, this blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice and counsel of a criminal defense attorney.
Entering a “guilty” plea in North Carolina means that you acknowledging guilt for the crime(s) that you have been charged with. Some guilty pleas are a result of a plea bargain, which is discussed in another blog. After entering that guilty plea, what happens next? Well, the judge will typically ask the defendant a series of questions to make sure that the person is knowingly and intelligently making this decision. If the defendant continues with the guilty plea, they will be sentenced. Depending on the County and level of court, a plea transcript is a part of this process.
No contest or “nolo contendere”
Entering a “no contest” or “nolo contendere” means that the defendant is neither accepting nor denying responsibility for the charge(s) but she/he is accepting the punishment.
This is a plea that is not accepted in every state (or in all circumstances) and often people get confused by its definition. An Alford plea is when someone does not admit guilt but acknowledges that he/she would most likely be convicted based on evidence and other factors. Under such circumstances, the person has decided that taking a plea would be in his best interest, even though he is not admitting guilt. An Alford is treated like a guilty plea.
When a criminal defendant pleads not guilty, the next phase of his case begins. What happens next is that the case is set for trial. Prior to that trial date there may be additional court dates such as pre-trial conferences, or review hearings. Further, the defendant and his attorney spend more of their time focusing on preparing for trial.
If you have been charged with a crime you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.