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no contest plea, pensacola, florida, Gulf BreezeMany of us have heard the term “no contest,” or in Latin “nolo contendere,” which means “I do not wish to contend,” on television or maybe during a trip to court here in Pensacola, but what does that mean and what is the difference between a plea of no contest and a plea of guilty in Florida?

Sometimes there is, effectively, no difference and sometimes there is a considerable difference.

If someone pleads guilty, they are admitting to the facts and legal consequences of those facts.  However, by entering a no contest plea, a person is not admitting their guilt but is admitting there are facts the prosecution can prove that would result in a conviction.  Specifically, by entering a plea of no contest a person is neither denying their guilt or admitting it. Rather, they are admitting that it is in their best interest to enter the plea.  The sentencing consequences can be, and usually are, the same.

plea agreement, Pensacola, attorney, crimeA plea agreement is a negotiated contract between a defendant’s attorney and the prosecutor that spells out the sentence that is acceptable to both parties. That sentence is then recommended to the court; it is then up to the court to accept or deny the terms of the plea agreement.

Provided the court accepts the terms agreed to, there will be no need for a trial. If the court does not accept the conditions, the defendant is generally allowed to withdraw the plea and choose to either plea without a plea agreement “straight up” to the court or go to trial.

Plea agreements have the advantage of certainty for the defendant. Almost always, the sentence agreed upon in the plea agreement is something less severe that the maximum allowable punishment under the law – otherwise there would be no reason to enter into a plea agreement.