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When Is It a Good Idea to Plead No Contest?

When Is It a Good Idea to Plead No Contest?

Some people think that the best way to handle a criminal charge is just to plead "no contest". But in South Carolina a no-contest plea is exactly the same as a guilty plea, and will result in the same penalties and criminal record. 

A no-contest plea will be considered exactly same by the court as a guilty-plea.

Sentences Are The Same

To be clear, a no-contest plea will result in the same criminal penalties as a guilty plea Even though the defendant isn’t admitting guilt, the court will still assess the same sentence. 

You shouldn't expect any favoritism from the judge for pleading no-contest vs. pleading guilty. You'll face the same fine, court costs, or jail sentence. In fact, some judges might even go harder on you for failing to accept responsibility. 

North Carolina v. Alford

There is a variant to the no contest plea, call pleading under North Carolina v. Alford. This refers to a legal case where a precedent was created, allowing people to accept a criminal conviction while specifically maintaining innocense. In order for this type of plea to be allowed the court must specifically agree to it. There must also be a specific advantage offered to the defendant for the plea, such as a negotiated reduced charge. 

Problems with Sex Offender Cases

One area of caution with no contest or North Carolina v. Alford pleas, is that they frequently aren't a good idea for those pleading to charges requiring sex offender probation or sex offender registration.

This is because most all treatment and counseling providers used by the probation office or the court will require sex offenders to admit wrongdoing to participate in the program. If someone denies guilt in court, and then later still denies guilt in treatment, it could result in a violation of their sentence and incarceration. 

For this reason, it's important that anyone accepting a plea bargain on a sex offense, know whether or not they'll be able to maintain their innocence during any later mandatory counseling or treatment. 

You May Have Personal Convictions

Innocent people sometimes fall through the system’s cracks, getting convicted of crimes they did not commit. Prosecutors are good at building a case, regardless of someone’s actual guilt.

You may have a strong case against you, one that will be hard to beat. You know you didn’t commit the crime, but you also know that you might lose your case anyway.

For some people in this situation, pleading no contest is a way of maintaining their personal integrity. They don’t want to fight a losing battle, but they also refuse to admit to any wrongdoing. By refusing to challenge the charges, they are making a statement. They are letting the world know that they know that they won’t accept guilt for something they didn’t do.

We don't typically encourage no contest pleas

The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, doesn't automatically encourage clients to plead no contest to crimes. While there can be some limited occasions where a no contest or North Carolina v. Alford plea, is the best option, we don't think that this applies to everyone. We believe that our clients who are innocent, or otherwise falsely or unfairly accused, should always consider seeking a complete dismissal of their charge vs. simply accepting a conviction. 

Our firm is here to counsel clients on all defense matters. We can help with a no contest plea or a guilty plea, and we can help you fight your allegations in court. For a free consultation, call us today at (803) 359-3301 or contact us online.


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