If you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense in Virginia, you will need to enter a plea to the crime you are accused of committing. You probably understand the difference between pleading guilty and not guilty.
However, you may not realize that you have the option of pleading no contest. This plea allows you to maintain your innocence while accepting criminal responsibility for your actions. In order to know whether this is the right decision for you, you need to understand how it may protect you and when this plea can be beneficial.
How Does a No Contest Plea Protect You?
A no contest plea is also referred to as nolo contender in Latin. When you enter this plea, you are not admitting or denying that you committed a crime. However, you are agreeing to accept a criminal sentence set by the judge.
In most states, a no contest plea cannot be introduced as evidence against a defendant to prove they are liable in a civil lawsuit filed by the victim of the alleged crime. However, this is not true in Virginia.
In our commonwealth, a no contest plea can be introduced as evidence in a civil lawsuit, but the plea is not considered a direct admission of liability. For example, if you injured someone in a car accident and were charged with reckless driving, your plea of no contest would not prove your liability to pay the victim. However, they could use the fact that you pled no contest to argue that you caused their injuries.
When Could Pleading No Contest Help You?
You should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before deciding to plead no contest. An attorney can explain all of the possible defenses to the crimes you are charged with committing and your options. Here are some benefits of this plea that you should consider:
- No trial. You avoid the stress, additional attorney fees, and uncertainty of a trial if you enter a no contest plea.
- Plea bargain. If you enter into a plea bargain with the prosecutor, you will have to change your initial not guilty plea when you ask the judge to approve the agreement. You may prefer to enter a no contest rather than a guilty plea so that you are not admitting guilt to committing the offense. You may be able to negotiate this as part of your plea agreement.
- Civil liability. You may want to plead no contest if you will be sued in a civil lawsuit. If you plead guilty, you are admitting you committed the crime, and this could be used against you as evidence of your liability to pay the victim. Pleading no contest may be a better option that gives you some protection in the civil case.
Have you been charged with a misdemeanor or felony in Virginia? Our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers will mount an aggressive defense strategy to help you achieve the best possible outcome given your situation. To learn more about our track record of success and how we can assist you, start a live chat to schedule a free consultation today.