The Denson Firm

Cruisin’ For a Bruce-in: Entering a Plea

In Cruisin’ For A Bruce-in, we ride along with Florida Attorney Bruce Denson as he gives brief explanations on Florida Law and what to do in common legal situations.


Here's everything you need to know about a plea to a criminal charge in the State of Florida.

There are three different types of pleas: One is guilty, which admits the charges against you; Number two is no contest, sometimes called nolo contendre, where you're not admitting or denying the charges, but you're just saying you want to be sentenced and get it over with, and the third is not guilty, letting the court know that you're going to contest the charges against you.

Those are the only three pleas allowed and the only things that you need to know when you go to court for that first hearing and talk about your case. So, if you want to contest the charges against you, you need to enter a not guilty plea so that you can do further discovery or talk to a lawyer about helping you out on your case.

Now, it may be later that you enter a change of plea, and that's why they call it a change of plea, because you originally entered that not guilty plea, and then you're changing it to guilty or no contest.

When entering a plea, there are two things that happen. There's what you do, and there's what the judge does. It's way more important what the judge does than what you do, but if you can enter in no contest plea, that's the best plea to enter in most circumstances because, again, you're not admitting anything. You're not denying it, you just want to be sentenced to get it over with.

What is more important than that, though, is what the judge does because the judge either can adjudicate you guilty or, in some cases, they can withhold adjudication. If you can have adjudication withheld in your case, that's great because you're not convicted, it's something that you may be able to later have sealed or expunged from your record, and it looks a lot better these days when all records are public. We want these things to look as good as possible.

So, if the case can't be dismissed, or you can't have a lawyer work through it and get the case thrown out or reduced to a lesser charge, the best way to make it look is short of having it dismissed is by a no contest plea with a withhold of adjudication. So, that's something to consider but the plea is an important part of the case, and it's recommended that before you enter any plea that you talk to an attorney about it.

We'd be glad to do that. So, feel free to give us a call if you want to talk about what type of plea you should enter or any other aspect of your case.

Thank you.

Further Thoughts

When facing a criminal charge in the State of Florida, a defendant typically has many options. During your formal reading of charges, called the arraignment, the defendant is asked to respond to the charges by entering a plea: Not Guilty, No Contest (Nolo Contendere), or Guilty. Now, not entering a plea is also an option, but under Florida law (RULE 3.170. PLEAS), a plea of not guilty will be entered by the court on your behalf.

What needs to be considered is the consequence of each plea. If you enter a plea of not guilty, your case will go to trial. You will get to make your case that you did not commit the crime, call witnesses, and cross-examine the prosecution's witnesses. If you enter a plea of guilty, the judge will immediately adjudicate the case or may choose to withhold adjudication, and you will be sentenced. The outcoming of your sentencing is completely dependent on the crime you have committed, your criminal record, and the opinions of the judge presiding over the case. Lastly, you may enter a plea of nolo contender, or no contest, which does not admit nor deny the charges but agree to be adjudicated.

In many cases, especially when you hire an attorney, the prosecution may offer what is called a "Plea Bargain" or plea deal. These deals typically reduce the charges against you in exchange for a guilty plea.

If you or a loved one are dealing with a criminal charge, we can help. Contact The Denson Firm immediately for a Free Consultation. We can help. Contact The Denson Firm immediately for a Free Consultation.

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