Legal Definitions Of The Various Pleas

Alford plea vs no contest

   Difference between pleading guilty and no contest

When charged with a criminal case, there are various pleas that a defendant can enter into. A defendant may plead guilty, not guilty, the nolo contendere or even the Alford plea.

By pleading guilty, a defendant acknowledges that the charges made against him are true, that he cannot defend his actions and is willing to accept any punishments levied against him. If a defendant makes a guilty plea, the court first ensures that he/she voluntarily made such a plea and that there is sufficient reason to believe that it is an honest plea. Even in such a case, the prosecution is required to present before the court all the evidence that would have been introduced in the event of a not guilty plea. This is done to ensure that the defendant is telling the truth indeed as there are instances where parents plead guilty in order to protect their child from prosecution.

By pleading no contest or nolo contendere, a defendant does not actually admit guilt to the crime but the court can go ahead and determine the punishment. The judge will have a discussion with the defendant so as to make sure that he/she understands the various aspects of making such a plea and the likely punishment. Such a discussion gives the defendant an opportunity to state the reasons or circumstances due to which he is making a no contest plea instead of guilty or not guilty. This also enables the judge to get a better perspective of the state of affairs. By pleading nolo contendere, there is a slight possibility that the defendant might be awarded a lighter sentence than might be handed down after a jury trial.

No contest plea

                               Nolo contendere plea

The difference between the Alford plea vs no contest is that the court will most likely reject a nolo contendere plea if the defendant at the same time voices his innocence in front of the media. Such a situation would be known as an Alford plea. Alford plea vs no contest is similar in the sense as it both eliminates the entire criminal trial process as the defendant accepts all consequences of a guilty verdict without admitting to the crime initially. Neither the Alford plea nor the nolo contendere plea will be permitted to be used as evidence against the defendant in a civil action.

Any plea should be stated only after consulting with a lawyer. The implications of such pleas are many and may not even be predictable.