What is the Difference Between a Plea of Guilty, Not Guilty, or Nolo Contendere?

When an individual is convicted of a criminal offense, generally thereafter they find themselves with a set court date for an arraignment. During this time, they are read their rights as well as presented with the charges currently being held against them. Having a criminal defense attorney present is crucial during this time should you want them to speak on your behalf when required to give a statement.

During the arraignment, the suspected criminal is also required to give a plea, which is a formal statement made by the defendant themselves, or the legal counsel representing them. This plea can be made in one of three ways including, guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere. A South Carolina criminal defense lawyer can guide and advise a defendant on the best plea option to select in assure their client receives a more favorable outcome. Below are the three types of pleas and what they mean.


Guilty- When a defendant enters a plea of guilty, he/she is acknowledging and admitting to the crime being charged with. This plea also means a forfeit of trial, therefore being sentenced based on the specific crime committed. Sometimes this sentencing takes place at a later date.

Not Guilty- If a defendant decides to plea not guilty, he /she is technically innocent until proven guilty. No sentencing can take place until evidence is provided as well as proof indicating the individual being charged is in fact guilty of the crime he/she is accused of committing. On occasion, there are those who believe while they may have broken the law, they were not wrongful in their actions.

Nolo Contendere- Most often referred to as a “no-contest” plea, this is used when a defendant neither wants to contest the charges nor accept them.  This means they are not necessarily guilty of committing the crime nor are they innocent. After a plea of no-contest is given, the defendant goes straight to sentencing, and the criminal charge will continue to remain on their personal record.

Each crime and how it is charged is handled in a sensitive manner. Depending on the state you live in, the severity of the crime, and who else was involved, you want to be sure if you are convicted of a crime, you have a knowledgeable criminal defense legal representative on your side that will have your best interest in mind.

Once present inside a courtroom, it would be ideal to have a South Carolina criminal attorney of your choice by your side rather than one appointed by the court. If you have a family member who is need of legal counsel in regard to their criminal charges, wait no longer. USAttorneys.com features a wide range of lawyers who are ready to assist you during this process.