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The Difference between a No Contest and a Guilty Plea

Posted by Michael Rehm | Sep 29, 2014 | 0 Comments


Hi.  My name is Michael Rehm.  I'm an attorney here in California.  I practice criminal and DUI defense.  This is an informational video.  A common question I get is what is the difference between no contest or a guilty plea to a criminal charge, whether it be a general criminal charge of a DUI offense.  This is just based on my understanding of the law.  Let me disclaim it.  It's not any kind of a guarantee as to what the law actually is, but it's my understanding of the law, the current law.  Keep in mind laws evolve.  What's current today might not be current tomorrow.  Before you take any plea in court, you always have to consult with an attorney in court as to what exactly is going on.  If you're not going to consult in court and you're going to represent yourself, at least get some sort of a consultation from an attorney prior to taking it on yourself.  That's the best legal advice I can give you.In terms of this video, and in terms of my understanding of the law, there is really only one major difference between a no contest and a guilty plea.  When you plead no contest in criminal court, first off you have to understand it's going to be treated as a guilty plea by the court.  They specifically will advise you of that that a no contest plea will be treated as a guilty plea, and they'll ask if you understand that.  It's not going to give you any kind of an advantage in criminal court as far as the sentence.  Where it will give you a potential advantage is that a no contest plea on a misdemeanor cannot be used against you in a subsequent civil proceeding involving the underlying facts of the criminal case, and a guilty plea can.  That's the real difference.  Let's say you get a first offense DUI and you hit a parked car.  If you later get sued for -- that would be a misdemeanor, by the way.  If you later get sued and the owner of the car wants damages for his vehicle, then the fact that you plead guilty in court could be used against you in a civil proceeding.  The fact you plead no contest, at least under the difference between the no contest and guilty plea, cannot be used against you in a civil proceeding.  It precludes it from being admissible.  It might be admissible for some other reason.  You'd have to talk to a civil litigator about that.  But as far as the immediate consequences of the criminal case, a no contest plea will not be used against you in a civil proceeding.Now, on a felony case, a no contest or a guilty plea, it doesn't matter what you plea, it will be used against you in the civil proceeding, assuming it's based, the civil proceeding is based on the conviction in the criminal case.  Meaning, if later on down the road you're sued, just because you plead guilty doesn't mean that this case will be used against you in some sort of unrelated civil proceeding.  That's a whole different video.In summary, and this is, there's kind of a lot of hype around this issue, and I get this a lot of times from clients where they're excited, "I want to plead no contest, not guilty," as if it's going to have some sort of a different impact in their criminal case.  It's not.  The court is going to treat it solely as a guilty plea, whether you plead no contest or not.  The only difference it will make is that, later on, if you're sued, based on this particular criminal conduct, for damages, no contest cannot be held against you, assuming it was a misdemeanor, and guilty can.  If you're facing a misdemeanor case, even if there's no possibility of a lawsuit, not every county will accept a no contest plea.  Some will demand a guilty plea.  But if you're facing a misdemeanor case, for the most part you're better off entering a plea of no contest if the court will allow you, than guilty.  My name is Michael Rehm.  (800) 978-0754.  I'm available for free consultations.  If anything here isn't clear and you want some more advice on the subject, give me a call.  I wish you luck.

About the Author

Michael Rehm

Michael Rehm has practiced law for over fifteen years. He has practiced exclusively Personal Injury and DUI/Criminal Defense.  While in law school, he served as an intern at the Sacramento County and Yolo County Public Defender's Office. After graduating law school, Mr. Rehm passed both the California and New York Bar Examinations on his first attempt. He then accepted a position at the Legal Aid Society-Criminal Defense Division in Brooklyn, NY representing the indigent in Brooklyn Criminal Court.  He has been in private practice for the last thirteen years. Education: University of California – San Diego Bachelors University of the Pacific – McGeorge School of Law Juris Doctorate License: California State Bar New York State Bar


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