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What is the benefit of pleading no contest?

Most Mississippi criminal trials settle out of court through negotiations. These negotiations often result in plea bargains, which are negotiated agreements involving exchanges regarding a defendant's charge, sentence or facts of the case. The terms of plea bargains often entail a defendant pleading guilty or no contest in exchange for a less serious charge or a lighter sentence.

While pleading guilty or pleading no contest result in criminal conviction and punishment, there are some significant differences between the two. When a defendant pleads guilty, he or she is admitting the charges and accepts the punishment determined by the court. The court will decide on the appropriate punishment after ensuring that the plea was entered voluntarily.

A plea of no contest, or nolo contendere, means that the defendant is not admitting the charges, but is still willing to accept the court's punishment. The judge will ensure that the defendant understands the plea and has an opportunity to explain why the decision was made to plead no contest instead of guilty or not guilty.

The main benefit of pleading no contest is that the plea cannot be offered as an admission of guilt in a future civil case. A defendant's plea of guilty may be offered as evidence of the defendant's admission of guilt if the defendant is later sued in a related civil case. However, a plea of no contest may not be offered as such because the defendant did not admit guilt.

The decision to plead guilty or no contest requires careful consideration of the benefits and drawbacks to each given defendants' unique situations and criminal defense strategies. Pleading no contest may be the best option for defendants seeking to avoid evidence of admission of fault being introduced against them in future civil cases.

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Christopher G. Holt Attorney at Law
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Gulfport, MS 39501

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