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44. Court Pleas– Guilty, No-Contest, or No Contest

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Pleas in Court and What They Mean


  • By entering a “guilty” plea a defendant makes an admission that there are factual bases for the charges and waives the right to contest the charges, obtain a trial, or appeal the decision.
  • By pleading guilty you are saying, “Yes I committed the act of which you accuse me. I don’t deny it. I am guilty as charged.” Mahatma Ghandi was a civil disobedient who always pled guilty in court as a matter of principle.
  • The judge will take the plea, sentence the defendant and impose the penalty. This is typically what Soulforce negotiates for the civil disobedience action.

No Contest (Nolo Contendere):

  • By entering a plea of No Contest a defendant waives the right to contest or challenge the charges. Like a guilty plea, it waives the right to a trial or appeal. However is not an admission of guilt.
  • The judge reviews the complaint and makes a determination of guilt. If found guilty, the judge will sentence the defendant.
  • Some people feel that this plea is a compromise between pleading guilty and not guilty.

Not Guilty

  • By entering a plea of not guilty a defendant is entitled to a trial and must be convicted, or change to a guilty plea, before s/he can be sentenced.
  • A “not guilty” plea can have two basic grounds. First, it may mean that you claim you did not commit the act alleged in the summons and complaint. Or, it may be based on a legal defense.
  • The burden of showing guilt lies with the state; you are presumed innocent unless the state can prove your guilt. In rare cases a defendant may be acquitted (found not guilty) during the trial.
  • Sometimes the charges will be dismissed.


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