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Difference Between Guilty and No Contest

Guilty vs. No Contest

The words “guilty” and “no contest” each have meanings as they refer to a criminal court trial in the United States. When someone is being charged with a crime, it is the judge or mediator’s job to ask how the defendant, or person who is considered at fault, pleads. That plea tells the criminal justice system whether or not they should hold a trial to determine guilt of the person or not. Some men and women will take this opportunity to confess to whatever crime they are charged with; however, this is also an opportunity for the defendant to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Depending on the defendant, the case may proceed to trial by jury or not.

When a defendant claims that he is guilty, he is stating in formal terms that he was the culprit of the crime and that he is deserving of the punishment that comes with it. You will also hear “guilty” in some cases that are tried before a jury especially if the jury has heard the witnesses and the evidence against the defendant. When a defendant claims “no contest,” this is equivalent to them saying they are innocent; however, they are not going to contest it if it were to go to trial. The benefit to pleading no contest over guilty is that if it occurs later, a civil trial cannot be brought against the defendant for restitution. When the jury states that their verdict is guilty, this means that even though the defendant has not claimed he is responsible for the crime, the government in culmination with evidence and witness testimony has deemed him or her as the culprit of the said crime.

Before a judge accepts a guilty plea from a defendant, there must be enough evidence to factually support the plea. It is not unheard of for a defendant to claim guilt when they are, in fact, innocent. Additionally important, depending on the state that the crime was committed in, there will be times when a plea of no contest is susceptible to the full punishment of the law if found guilty. Whereas, if the person claimed they were guilty immediately, their lawyer could bargain for a lessened sentence. Additionally, a judge must sit with a defendant and ensure they are aware of the guilty plea and the consequences of that plea. This is also a chance to determine if the defendant is of sound mind to understand what pleading guilty means. The judge is not required to sit with a defendant who pleads no contest.

No contest and guilty are two types of pleas that a defendant can claim if they are charged with a crime in the criminal justice system. Guilty can also be a verdict delivered at the end of a jury trial.
No contest is the person claiming they are innocent; however, they will not contest the charges if the case goes to trial. Guilty is the admittance that the person was and is responsible for the crime committed and all charges that are involved with that crime.

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