What are the Types of Pleas in a Criminal Case?

if you’ve been charged in a criminal case, you have four ways to respond when formally arraigned in Florida. Your options are: 


  1. Pleading guilty 
  2. Pleading not guilty 
  3. Pleading no contest, which is also known as “nolo contendere” 
  4. Remaining mute 


There are many reasons a defendant might choose one option over another. Below, we go into more detail about what each plea option means. But it is critical that you confer with an experienced criminal defense attorney to explore your best option before responding.  



Pleading Not Guilty 


When entering a not-guilty plea, a criminal defendant will have additional court dates with time to obtain legal representation and analyze the evidence against them. Some reasons a defendant might enter a not-guilty plea include the following: 


  • The defendant is not guilty of the crime they are charged with  
  • The defendant needs additional time to weigh their options and to consult with an attorney 
  • The defendant wants to take part in the discovery process and see evidence the prosecution has before deciding on how to proceed 
  • The defendant has yet to negotiate an agreement with the prosecution successfully 


A not-guilty plea can later be changed to a plea of guilt or a plea of no contest by a criminal defendant.  


Pleading Guilty 


Entering a guilty plea for a criminal case in Florida means a criminal defendant has admitted to committing the criminal act they were charged with. A guilty plea will commence the closure of the case and will bring forth a penalty imposed on the defendant.  


Courts often won’t accept a guilty plea if a defendant is  

confused about voluntarily entering a guilty plea.  


This is why it is necessary to consult with an experienced criminal law attorney before entering a plea. It is particularly true when reversing or withdrawing a guilty plea, which is challenging and not assured. Additionally, a judge typically lists all the rights the defendant has given up. In addition to most appellate rights, these rights include: 


  • The right to a jury or judge determining the defendant’s guilt at a trial 
  • The right to an attorney representing them at a trial 
  • The right against self-incrimination  
  • The right to testify on their behalf 
  • The right to hear and to confront any witnesses against them 
  • The right to compel any witnesses to testify on their behalf 
  • The right to present evidence and arguments to the jury or judge 
  • The right to require that the prosecution prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt 


Withdrawing a Guilty Plea 


Typically, you cannot change your mind once you have entered a guilty plea. So, it’s vitally important that a defendant understands the ramifications of entering a guilty plea (or no-contest plea) to any charges brought forth. While it is technically possible to withdraw a plea of guilty or no contest, it is tough to do so, particularly once a defendant has been sentenced. 


Learn More > Can I Withdraw a Guilty Plea in Florida?  


Pleading No Contest 


Entering a no-contest plea, also known as a plea of nolo contendere, means a criminal defendant is not admitting guilt. But it does mean the defendant is not contesting the charges against them. However, the outcome of a no-contest plea is the same as entering a guilty plea in criminal prosecution. This option may be desirable for defendants who don’t believe they have violated the law but want to refrain from a trial. It’s important to note that not all Florida judges accept a no-contest plea. 


Remaining Mute 


Technically, remaining mute is the fourth option for a criminal defendant facing arraignment, and it is not usually relevant to most criminal cases. When a defendant remains mute at arraignment, the judge enters a plea of not guilty on behalf of the defendant, and the case proceeds as if they pleaded not guilty. 


Learn More > Plea or Go to Trial? Who Decides?  


Consult With a Knowledgeable Tampa Criminal Law Attorney 


Navigating the criminal justice system on your own is confusing and complicated. When facing serious criminal charges, you must learn about your rights and options from an expert criminal defense attorney. Stechschulte Nell has the passion and expertise to fight for you.  


Schedule a case review consultation or call us today at 813-280-1244.  


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