At the beginning of every criminal case, you will need to tell the court how you “plead.” You should never plead guilty to an offense without first discussing your options with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. You can change your plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” at a later date, often after your attorney reaches a favorable plea deal with a prosecutor. If you choose not to plead guilty, you can take your case to trial and force the prosecutors to prove the charges, if they can.
Many people may not realize there is a third way you can plead in a Connecticut criminal case, called “nolo contendere,” also referred to as a “no contest” plea. Similar to a guilty plea, a plea of nolo contendere will result in a conviction and a sentence for the offense in question. The main difference is that with a nolo contendere plea, you do not admit or deny fault for the crime.
Avoiding Civil Liability with a Nolo Contendere Plea
If a criminal offense causes physical or financial harm to another person, the alleged victim may file a case in civil court to recover damages. For example, if you crash your vehicle into another car and police arrest you for drunk driving, you could face charges of driving under the influence (DUI) in criminal court, as well as a civil personal injury claim by any victims injured in the crash. Assault cases often coincide with personal injury claims, as well, and homicide allegations can lead to a wrongful death claim.
While a civil claim is separate from a criminal charge, a conviction of a crime may serve as evidence of liability in a civil case. In other words, a guilty verdict after a trial or plea of guilty can be used in a civil case to show you were at fault in the civil case. However, it may not be in your best interest to contest your charges in a criminal trial simply because you also face civil allegations. Your lawyer might negotiate a favorable deal in exchange for pleading guilty. In such a situation, you have the option to plead nolo contendere (no contest) and accept the punishment for the crime, but not admit liability for the purposes of a civil action.
You should never enter a guilty plea or a nolo contendere plea without first thoroughly discussing the matter with your defense lawyer. An experienced lawyer will be able to explain all of your options, as well as any possible implications of each option. Any plea can have lasting consequences, and you want to be sure to make the decision that is in your best interest in any type of criminal matter.
Contact Our Connecticut Criminal Defense Attorneys as Soon as Possible
The experienced criminal defense lawyers at Koffsky & Felsen, LLC will rigorously identify your options, advise you, and protect your rights throughout every stage of your case. After an arrest or criminal charge, please do not delay in calling (203) 327-1500 or contact us online, so that we can discuss your options in your criminal case.