Not Guilty Pleas
When an accused has been charged with an offense, he has a choice of whether to enter a not guilty, a no contest, or a guilty plea. A not guilty plea is a plea in which the accused does not accept responsibility for the charged offense. After the accused has entered a not guilty plea, the matter is set for trial. Pre-trial procedures and trial preparations then begin.
No Contest or Nolo Contendere Pleas
A no contest plea is a plea in which the accused does not admit nor deny responsibility for the charged offense. This type of plea may only be made with the court’s consent. Such a plea is not admissible during civil proceedings regarding the same issue. However, the plea is admissible for enhancement purposes for other criminal proceedings that the accused may be charged with thereafter. No trial occurs with this type of plea.
An accused may make an Alford Plea, if applicable in their state. This type of plea is made when an accused purports their innocence although they chose to enter a guilty plea. If a strong factual basis exists supporting an Alford plea, the court will accept such plea. No trial occurs with this type of plea.
A guilty plea is one in which an accused accepts responsibility for the offense or offenses charged in an information, indictment, or complaint. The judge will listen to the accused’s plea and ask the accused several questions to ensure that the plea is given in a free, intelligent, and voluntary manner. The accused must convince the court, usually by answering a plethora of questions, that they understand the veracity of the charge against them and understand that they are entering a guilty plea to that charge. Often times a guilty plea is entered after a plea agreement or plea bargain has been entered into with the prosecution. The court must:
There is no trial when the accused enters a guilty plea. After the court has accepted the guilty plea, the accused will be required to return, usually at a later date, for sentencing.
Withdrawal of a Guilty Plea
In most cases, an accused may ask permission to withdraw their guilty plea prior to sentencing. Depending upon the state court procedure, the accused is usually required to file a motion or petition to withdraw their guilty plea. The accused must file a timely motion to withdraw the plea and must set forth facts that would justify the withdrawal of the guilty plea. The accused must show the court that there is a fair and just reason supporting the withdrawal of the plea. Examples of grounds that may justify a withdrawal are:
If a plea of guilty is withdrawn, evidence of the plea is generally not admissible in any court proceedings.