If you are arrested in or around Pittsburgh, you must eventually provide a formal response to the charges against you. This response is referred to as your plea.
As a defendant, you should understand the criminal process, and the various types of pleas available to you. These pleas include: not guilty, guilty, and no contest (nolo contendere).
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we know how to what’s on the line for you and how these different pleas can impact your life. Let us review the facts and fight for the best possible outcome.
Call us at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation. We’re available 24/7.
Not Guilty Plea
When you enter a plea of “not guilty,” you are certifying to the court that you did not commit the crime in question.
At this stage, the Commonwealth becomes responsible for proving you committed the offense “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Of the three most common types of pleas, ‘not guilty’ is the one that will lead you toward a trial.
After you enter a not guilty plea, the judge will schedule dates for further actions related to pretrial activities, and/or a trial.
What Happens After a Not-Guilty Plea?
Entering a plea of not guilty begins the process in which your attorney will take steps to prepare your case for trial – these steps may include conducting additional investigative work and examining all of the evidence. At any point prior to a final judgment, you and your attorney may enter plea negotiations with the prosecutor.
If you decide to accept a plea deal during this period, you will be able to change your “not guilty” plea to “guilty” or “no contest,” and receive a lesser charge(s).
By entering a plea of “guilty,” you are admitting for legal purposes that you committed the offense. This plea leaves you open to the possibility of receiving the maximum penalties as outlined under Pennsylvania law.
If you provide the court with a plea of guilty, you can expect to move quickly into the sentencing phase. Normally, a defendant will not plead guilty at the arraignment stage, with that waiting until later by means of a plea bargain – either right before the trial begins, or during some portion of the trial.
As the defendant, you may be able to rescind your guilty plea before the judge formally accepts it. However, once accepted by the court and a sentence has been imposed, you may not withdraw a guilty plea.
No Contest (Nolo Contendere) Plea
If you issue a plea of no contest, you are not legally admitting that you are guilty. However, this plea means you accept the truthfulness of the facts alleged.
Whether you plead guilty or no contest, you will generally face the same consequences. However, one benefit of a no-contest plea is that your plea cannot be used against you in a later criminal or civil case since you did not legally admit guilt. In addition, pleading no contest may enable you to appeal certain decisions that you would otherwise not be able to appeal if you pled guilty.
Pleading no contest is not available in every criminal case. Typically, a no-contest plea results from a negotiated agreement. The judge must give you permission to plead no contest.
If the prosecution agrees to let you enter a no-contest plea, often the judge will agree and allow it – however, this is not guaranteed.
Consult a Lawyer About Any Plea
Deciding how to plead in a criminal case is serious, and should not be taken lightly. There are reasons behind why you would plead a certain way in various situations, and an experienced lawyer can help.
A not guilty plea gives you the chance to fight the case and build a strong defense. A guilty or no-contest plea may get the matter with over with quickly, but there will be a trade-off you need to consider.
If you’re currently the subject of a criminal case, you need highly experienced legal representation to ensure your rights are protected. Our Pittsburgh criminal attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC know what it tkaes to look out for your interests and how to weigh the pros and cons of entering a plea.
Let us help navigate your case toward a resolution that gives you the most favorable result possible.
Contact us today at (412) 281-2146 to request a free case evaluation with a knowledgeable and experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney from our team.