Can you explain the difference between not guilty and a nolo contendere in Florida?
Answer: So not guilty occurs—when in the beginning of the case—where your lawyer files a plea of not guilty. It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily not guilty, it means that’s the way a criminal case starts. By a lawyer filing a plea of not guilty on your behalf. Now, you can go to trial and continue to plead not guilty. You go to trial and a jury ultimately determines that you’re not guilty of the crime. Then that’s great. Then you walk, and you might be able to seal your record if you were found not guilty by a jury. A nolo contendere or what we call, “no contest” is the type of plea that you can use in most jurisdictions in Florida. So let’s say you were charged with a possession charge, and at the end of the day you decide you want to resolve the case in court 60 or 90 days, 120 days later. The type of plea that you could enter that is accepted in most jurisdictions is a plea of no contest or nolo contendere, meaning you’re not disputing the charge but you believe it is in your best interest to resolve the case. Which would be often a negotiated deal that the prosecutor is giving to you and that hopefully the judge accepts. That is what we call a nolo contendere or no contest plea.
There are certain judges across the state who will not accept a nolo contendere plea. They think that you’re going to resolve the case and you’re going to admit it, then you have to plead guilty to the charge. It doesn’t happen a lot, most judges across the state will accept a nolo contendere or no contest plea. You believe it is in your best interest to resolve the case without admitting guilt, that’s a plea of nolo contendere.