Defendants have the legal right to declare their innocence when charged with a crime. However, they may choose one of the other plea options instead.
Knowing the various types of pleas and how they impact the defendant’s next step is necessary for each person to make the best choice for their situation.
A plea of not guilty declares that the defendants did not do the crime the law has charged. This plea allows attorneys to proceed with trials where the district’s or state’s attorneys must prove the defendant’s guilt. This plea is the only option that provides the opportunity for the courts to declare the defendant innocent and not have a criminal record.
When defendants plead guilty, they admit to participating in the crimes as charged in exchange for a sentence by a judge. With this plea, defendants give up their right to a trial by jury and begin their sentence immediately after entering their plea with the courts.
A no-contest plea is an option for defendants to declare neither guilt nor innocence. Defendants often choose this option when the courts offer a sentencing settlement called a plea bargain. Occasionally, the plea bargain option may offer lighter sentences than what juries might return. Defendants accept the consequences of the crime without having a guilty verdict on their records.
Defendants should understand the different plea options available and how they impact what happens next in their cases. Each type of plea makes a significant impact on their future.