Nolo contendere and Alford pleas: What do they mean for your criminal case?

When you’re charged with a crime, it’s difficult to know what path to take. Do you fight the charges? Admit your guilt and hope for mercy from the court? Should you take a plea deal offered by the prosecution?

Understanding some of the plea options you have other than “guilty” can help you make an informed choice. Two of the most commonly misunderstood pleas you can make include “nolo contendere” and an Alford plea.

What’s nolo contendere?

Also called a “no contest” plea, a nolo contendere plea essentially means that you agree to accept punishment for your offense while neither outright denying nor admitting your guilt.

This is sometimes the plea that people will choose to make when they feel that they are likely to be convicted at trial but they don’t want their plea to be used against them in civil court. This can be important, for example, in a case involving something like a drunk driving accident where someone died and you expect to eventually face a civil lawsuit over that death.

What’s an Alford plea?

An Alford plea is a compromise that allows you to accept a plea deal and punishment for an offense while still maintaining your innocence. A regular plea deal requires you to acknowledge your guilt — and you may even have to articulate that guilt in court.

Alford pleas are uncommon, but they can be useful if you want to end your legal battle with the prosecution and can agree on a deal but you refuse to admit to something you didn’t do.

It’s important to remember, however, that even though neither of these pleas require you to admit your guilt, they will still be treated as a conviction on your record — which could have long-term ramifications for your future.

When you’re facing criminal charges, don’t take any chances with your future or your freedom. Talk to a Blue Mountain defense attorney before you make another move.