After an officer places you under arrest for a criminal charge, you will have to go to court for a plea hearing. During this court appearance, you will enter a plea.
According to FindLaw, your plea is how you answer to the charges. You can plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest. The plea you use will help determine what happens next for you and your legal journey.
The meaning of pleas
If you decide to plead guilty, then you admit that the facts of the case are correct and that you committed the crime. A not guilty plea means that you do not agree with the facts of the case and that you do not admit you committed the crime.
A no contest plea is where you admit the facts can prove your guilt, but you do not want to admit guilt. If you plead no contest and the court accepts this plea, then the judge will enter a guilty plea on your behalf.
After the plea
If you plead guilty or no contest, your case will move into the sentencing phase. The judge will determine your sentence based on various factors. There may be a plea bargain from the prosecution. As part of the deal, the prosecutor may have agreed to ask the judge for a particular sentence.
If you plead not guilty, your case will go to trial. There is still the potential for the prosecution to offer a plea bargain, which you may decide to take. Generally, accepting a plea bargain means pleading guilty, but the prosecutor may also accept a no contest plea.