When pleading to a criminal case, it is so important to use proper language. So many of my clients ask me what is the difference between pleading no contest vs. guilty.

First, what is a plea?

A plea is a client’s formal response to the Court of the charges made against them—a person can plead NOT GUILTY, GUILTY or NO CONTEST. No contest essentially tells the Court that the client does not admit guilt, but that the facts in the charge are true. The Court will advise in open court that a no contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea EXCEPT when it comes to two very important issues:

• FIRST: Civil claims…a NO CONTEST plea cannot be used against the person in a civil proceeding. This is so important especially if a client is getting sued in civil court for an accident that was charged in criminal court.

• SECOND: Immigration issues, YES, a simple NO CONTEST Plea can help in immigration cases where someone is renewing their application to stay in the country.

There are so many consequences to admitting a charge: From Civil Court, immigration proceedings, employment, and licensing issues. That is why it is absolutely essential to protect yourself with an attorney who understands the criminal process inside and out.

When my client was charged with a serious DUI that had injured a mother of two, he was confused and scared about how to properly proceed. After careful analysis and investigation, he decided to plead no contest. By doing so, he protected himself from the victim using his plea against him in civil court. If he had pleaded guilty, the civil court could use his plea against him, which would have had serious consequences in his civil suit. My client ended up saving hundreds of thousands of dollars because of his skilled representation.