Do I have a right to plea No Contest or Nolo Contendere?

The District Attorney is offering me one year reporting probation. My lawyer tells me that if I go to trial and lose I will get one to two years up state. While, I didn’t commit the crime, I really don’t want to go to jail for something I didn’t do. Do I have a right to plea no contest or nolo contendere?

No contest and nolo contendere are the same thing. The idea of a nolo plea means that you are not contesting the charges, not because you did it but because you do not wish to face the prospect of going through a long costly trial and/or going to jail.

However, you do not have a right to plea no contest. The district attorney must agree to a nolo plea. There are many goods and bads about a nolo plea. The main issue with a nolo plea is that you are not admitting that you did anything wrong. The bad part about not admitting that you did anything bad is that at sentencing you cannot argue to the judge that you should get a break at sentencing for accepting responsibility for your actions. For many judges, from both sides of the aisle, this is the single biggest factor in applying the sentencing guidelines.

The good part of the no contest plea is that if the case is a sex offense or a theft offense, the conviction cannot be used against you if you testify at a future court proceeding because your answer is simply that you did NOT admit to anything.

Sometimes, if you plea no contest to a sex offense, the probation department will make you go to sex classes where you will be pressured to admit that you in fact sexually assaulted someone. A no contest plea allows you to deny the charges. This can get sticky, but the subject of probation violations is an entirely different question.

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