Guilty Verdict And No Contest In Criminal Law Cases
In criminal law, guilt is the state of being responsible for the commission of an offense. Being “guilty” of a criminal offense means that one has committed a violation of criminal law or performed all the elements of the offense set out by a criminal statute.
Guilty verdict refers to a jury’s finding that the defendant is guilty of the offense charged. Within the United States, in order for a defendant to be found guilty, a jury must find him or her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Things that may contribute to a guilty verdict include: the amount of evidence presented by the prosecution; the quality of the evidence presented by the prosecution; the experience and believability of the prosecutor trying the case; the defense presented, or lack thereof, by the defendant; and the general characteristics of the defendant.
The prosecution in a criminal trial will present evidence to the jury in an attempt to convince them of the defendant’s guilt. Evidence may be documentary, physical, demonstrative, or testamentary. While simply introducing a large volume of evidence should not, in and of itself, equate to a guilty verdict, juries are often swayed by sheer volume when it comes to evidence of guilt. Jurors are lay people and, as such, are often ill-equipped to sift through the volume of evidence presented to determine how relevant or reliable it may be.
The quality of the evidence presented clearly affects the chance of a jury returning a guilty verdict. For example, in a murder trial, presenting DNA evidence that positively identifies the defendant as being present at the crime scene is compelling evidence of guilt. Likewise, introducing evidence that the murder weapon was found on the defendant will likely go a long way in contributing to a guilty verdict. Expert witnesses can work for, or against, the prosecution. While juries tend to believe their testimony, they can also become very confused by it and may simply discard it altogether if they do not understand it.
Witness testimony can also play a large role in a guilty verdict. While eye witness testimony has been scientifically shown to be less-than-accurate, juries tend to believe it nonetheless. When a victim testifies, his or her testimony will clearly have a powerful impact on the jury.
In the United States, a defendant is not required to present any defense at all. A defendant has a right against self-incrimination in addition to the fact that the prosecution bears the burden of proving guilt, not the defendant proving innocence. While this is the legal standard, juries often want to hear from the defendant and can take it as an admission of guilt of the defendant does not testify, despite the legal requirement that they not do so.
While subjective factors, such as the likability of the prosecutor or the defendant, or the appearance of either one, should not contribute to a guilty verdict, studies show that, in reality, they often do. An experienced prosecutor knows how to engage a jury, which goes a long way in a criminal trial. On the other hand, many defendants simply do not present themselves well in court, which may have a subtle effect on the jury, even if they do not consciously realize it. Source
No Contest Plea
The English translation of a nolo contendere plea used in criminal cases. Generally the terms nolo contendere and no contest are used inter-changeably in the legal community. The operation of a no contest plea is similar to a plea of guilty. A defendant who enters a no contest plea concedes the charges alleged without disputing or admitting guilt and without offering a defense. No contest has a different meaning in the context of a will.
The purpose of entering a no contest plea is often to avoid being sued civilly for essentially confessing to a crime, which is the basis of a guilty plea. If the no contest plea restricts someone from suing you civilly for an action, why would anyone enter a plea of “guilty” to charges against them?
Pleading guilty means you admit the charges, you have no defense for your actions, and the court can go ahead and levy punishment against you.
The court first ensures that you entered the guilty plea voluntarily and that they have some reason to believe you are telling the truth. It is not unheard of, for example, for a parent to plead guilty to a crime to protect their child. The prosecutor must explain what evidence they would have had against you had you pled not guilty and a trial had been set.
Pleading no contest or nolo contendere means you admit no guilt for the crime, but the court can determine the punishment. The judge will hold a conversation with the defendant to ensure s/he understands the plea and the possible punishment. This gives the defendant an opportunity to explain the circumstances and why s/he is pleading no contest instead of guilty or not guilty. Through this conversation, the judge gains a better perspective on the situation. The defendant has some possibility of getting a less harsh sentence than might be handed down after a jury trial.
Restrictions on pleading no contest vary between states, and in some jurisdictions it is prohibited. It is unlikely that the court will allow you to enter a nolo contendere plea while vigorously denying your guilt to the media. This would be known as an Alford plea, based on a 1963 murder case in North Carolina. The defendant pled guilty to second-degre murder to avoid the death penalty, but still vocalized his innocence. Neither the nolo contendere plea nor the Alford plea could later be used in a civil action as evidence against the defendant. Source
Although some defendants think that they can “beat the system” on their own, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is the best way to prevent becoming another statistic.
West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are accused of a crime, your freedom, your family, your reputation, your immigration status, and your job may be at stake. The outcome you receive in the criminal justice system depends upon the experience and knowledge of the defense attorney you choose to represent you.
When you retain the law firm of Andrew D. Stine, P.A., you do not simply retain a nationally recognized criminal defense lawyer. You retain a criminal defense team who has worked together for years and successfully represented clients in virtually every type of criminal case, including:
- Animal cruelty, such as dog fighting, cock fighting and abandonment
- Drug crimes, such as drug trafficking and Oxycodone offenses
- Fraud, such as mortgage fraud, insider trading and mail fraud
- Traffic offenses, such as DUI
- Violent crimes, such as domestic violence and battery
Contact our law firm to discuss your case in a confidential consultation.