In Utah, there are three types of pleas: not guilty, guilty, and no contest. This article will discuss what these pleas mean in Utah and how they may affect you if you find yourself in a courtroom.
What Is a Not Guilty Plea?
A not guilty plea means that you want a trial where the government must prove their case. The United States and Utah Constitutions both say that you are innocent until proven guilty. The government must overcome this presumption and prove to a jury that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If you are innocent or you believe the government cannot prove their case, you should plead not guilty. See Utah Code 77-13-2(1).
What Is a Guilty Plea?
A guilty plea means that you are accepting responsibility for the crime. You are giving up your presumption of innocence and pleading guilty to a criminal charge without going through trial. This plea is an admission of guilt. After you plead guilty, the judge will sentence you. We never recommend pleading guilty until you’re firmly convinced that the government can prove their case and you will benefit from accepting responsibility. See Utah Code 77-13-2(2).
What Is a No Contest Plea?
A no contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea but it is different from just admitting guilt. It means that you are not challenging or contesting the charge, but you are also not admitting guilt. A no contest plea has the benefits of allowing you to say that you didn’t commit the crime, but you’re willing to accept the punishment for the crime. It’s not uncommon for individuals to choose this option because they don’t want the hassle of a trial, but also don’t want to admit any wrongdoing. See Utah Code 77-13-2(3).
A major difference of a no contest plea is that the judge must approve the plea. The judge will ask you if you understand the no contest plea and that the consequence of a no contest plea is the same as a guilty plea. See Utah Code 77-13-3.
How Should You Plead?
If you’re on the fence about pleading guilty or no contest, it’s best to wait and consult with the attorneys at Conyers & Nix. It may be beneficial in some cases to plead guilty if there are other charges pending or if accepting responsibility will make you look better to the judge. You can always change your mind and plead guilty at a different time, but once you make that decision it cannot be undone.