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Pleading Guilty, Not Guilty, and No Contest

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After an arrest, you will need to enter a series of steps between booking and conviction. One of these processes is known as arraignment, or a hearing where a judge will read the charges against you and ask you to enter a plea. Prior to the arraignment, your Washington criminal defense attorney will explain the difference between each plea you could enter and advise you on which path to take. There are three types of pleas in Washington state: guilty, not guilty, and no contest.

What Happens If You Plead Guilty?

When you plead guilty, you signal to the court that you have violated the law and are therefore subject to penalties under state law. Usually, defendants do not plead guilty unless they have struck a bargain with the prosecutor. A plea bargain typically offers a reduced sentence or conviction in exchange for a guilty or no contest plea.

After your attorney and the prosecutor agree to a plea bargain, they will inform the judge, who will then decide whether to accept the deal. You will then need to undergo a judge’s review to determine whether or not you provided a knowing and intelligent guilty plea.

After pleading guilty, the judge will ask you a series of questions to assess whether you are aware of your rights. You will need to testify under oath to the following facts.

  • You admit to the criminal conduct.
  • You admit to and understand the charges against you.
  • You understand the consequences of entering a guilty plea.
  • You understand the rights you are waiving by pleading guilty

Once you plead guilty, you waive your right to a jury trial and the court will then levy the appropriate penalties. If you entered into a plea without it being knowing and intelligent, you could appeal the decision—but the process is highly complex. Always consult with a criminal defense attorney before entering a guilty plea.

What Is a No Contest Plea?

A no contest plea is an option where you do not admit that you committed a crime, but you do not attest that you are innocent either. Although a no contest plea may seem neutral, it carries the same implications as a guilty plea. You accept a punishment and waive your right to a jury trial.

Like a guilty plea, defendants typically enter a no contest plea if they have struck an agreement with the prosecutor. The judge will oversee the sentencing and levy the appropriate penalties. This option also helps defendants avoid liability in a civil lawsuit regarding the same incident.

What Happens When You Plead Not Guilty?

When you plead not guilty, you signal to the court that you did not believe that you violated the law. As a result, the judge will set a date for a trial where evidence, witness testimony, and arguments will be presented to the court. A jury will then decide whether or not you committed the crime that the state is accusing you of. If you are facing criminal charges in Washington state, it is important to contact a defense attorney as soon as you can. Your lawyer will be able to evaluate your case and advise you on how to plead during your arraignment. He or she will also guide you through each stage of the trial and advocate for your best possible outcome. As soon as possible following your arrest, speak to a defense attorney to evaluate your next steps.

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