When a prosecutor in South Carolina charges you with a crime, you have a few options for how to plea beyond guilty or not guilty. You may wish to plea no contest or use the Alford plea defense when you feel the prosecution doesn’t have enough proof and you don’t want to admit guilt. You might also consider one of these pleas when you are truly innocent of the charges against you.
This blog explains no contest and Alford pleas in more detail. Criminal defense attorney Sara Turner will advise you on which plea would benefit you the most while also arguing for the court to drop or reduce charges against you.
The Pros and Cons of Using an Alternative Plea in Court
When you plead no contest, also known as nolo contendere, it means you are not admitting guilt but accept the legal consequences of a guilty plea. Using the Alford plea means that you plead guilty but maintain that you are innocent of the charges. The result of using either plea is a criminal conviction. Below are some benefits of pleading no contest or using the Alford plea for you to consider as you contemplate your options.
- You can avoid incurring additional legal fees because your case does not go to court
- If charged for another crime, the prosecutor cannot use either of these pleas against you. The prosecution also cannot use a no contest or Alford plea against you for other charges in your current case.
- The jury may convict you of lesser charges and the judge may reduce your legal punishment by using one of these pleas. You stand a greater likelihood of lesser consequences by pleading no contest or using the Alford plea than you would be pleading not guilty and having a jury later pronounce you as guilty.
You also need to consider the potential drawbacks of taking one of these actions. The judge retains sole sentencing power, and you risk facing legal consequences even when innocent. The main purpose of pleading no content or using the Alford plea is to avoid a civil suit where the victim of the crime could sue you. However, state and federal laws do not allow you to use either plea for that sole reason. You cannot deny your guilt publicly but accept punishment privately by pleading no contest or using the Alford plea.
Consequences of These Pleas Could Reach Beyond the Legal System
When you apply for a job, keep in mind that using the no contest or Alford plea is equal to a conviction. That means you must answer yes if the employer asks if you have a criminal conviction on your record. However, you can legitimately answer no if the employer asks if you have ever pled guilty to a crime.
Be sure to read the wording carefully on any type of application, whether it’s for a job, apartment, or bank account. While you must answer truthfully, you are under no obligation to admit guilt in any criminal charge if you pled no contest or invoked the Alford plea. You should prepare yourself for the possibility that anyone requesting a background check on you will discover the plea as it is a matter of public record.
Request an Initial Consultation with The Law Office of Sara A. Turner
Sara Turner understands this is a stressful time in your life and is available to help. Please contact her law office in Charleston, South Carolina today to schedule a time to meet.