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The Difference Between “Guilty” and “No Contest”

Pleading “Guilty” vs “No Contest” in Wisconsin – Know the Difference

When you face criminal charges and make your plea to the court, you have essentially three options: guilty, not guilty, or no contest. While a “not guilty” plea gives you a day in court, both of the other two amount to accepting the charges against you. Still, there are some differences that can make a difference for you. An experienced lawyer can help you decide which plea is right for you.

Pleading Guilty

If you plead guilty, you are telling the court that you committed the crime of which you are accused. This may make sense for you if the evidence against you is so overwhelming that you have no reasonable way to claim innocence. Often it comes in conjunction with a plea deal; you agree to plead guilty and save the court time and resources, in exchange for a reduced charge or a lighter sentence against you. Further, if you are later involved in a civil suit based on the same activity, that guilty plea can be used against you.

Pleading No Contest

In some ways, pleading no contest brings the same result. Instead of confessing your guilt for a crime, it means you are choosing to accept rather than fight the charges. From a sentencing perspective, it bears little distinction from a guilty plea. You skip a trial, accept the consequences of your actions, and receive a sentence: jail time or probation, fines, or both. The difference is that you neither admit nor are convicted of committing the crime of which you are accused. A no contest plea cannot legally be used as an admission of guilt, and in a later civil trial, it can be excluded as evidence.

Depending on your situation, it may be wiser to plead not guilty, no contest, or sometimes even guilty. At Eisenberg Law Offices, we take the time to understand your case and then help you make the best choice for you. Contact us online or at 608-256-8356 to learn more.