What Are the Types of Pleas in a Criminal Case?

You can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest at an arraignment.

What Are the Types of Pleas in a Criminal Case?

If you are being charged in a criminal case, deciding how to plea is a major decision that will affect how your case moves forward. Before pleading, you should consider:

  • Your Constitutional rights – This includes your right to an attorney and your right to remain silent.
  • Whether or not you can withdraw your plea – This is difficult after a judge has signed off on your plea.
  • Your sentencing – Pleading guilty right away may mean more severe charges than you would receive after a ‘not guilty’ plea, even if you are ultimately found guilty. A not guilty plea may allow you and your attorney to negotiate a favorable plea bargain.
  • Long-term ramifications – A guilty plea would show on your criminal record and impact your future employment and housing options, among others.

A plea will be entered during the arraignment stage of a criminal case. Visit here to understand the steps of a criminal case and how the arraignment fits in.

Plea of Guilty- A defendant pleading guilty is admitting to all the charges against them. A guilty plea will send a defendant straight to sentencing. Defense attorneys typically do not recommend pleading guilty at an arraignment unless a very favorable plea agreement has been offered that requires it.

Plea of Not Guilty- Most commonly heard at the arraignment stage, pleading not guilty means the defendant is claiming to not have committed the charges being held against them. Entering this plea requires the State to prove the defendant committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It also allows the defense attorney time to begin their investigation into the evidence to prepare for trial or to begin negotiating a favorable plea agreement.

In some instances, a judge may automatically enter a plea of not guilty on behalf of the defendant. This is not a reason to be concerned. In doing so, the judge is actually protecting the due process rights of the defendant and allowing them the opportunity to confer with their attorney regarding the case.

Plea of No Contest (Nolo Contendere)- When a defendant pleads no contest, they are neither accepting guilt nor disputing the alleged facts of the crime. A no contest plea will be handled the same as a guilty plea and will send a defendant straight to sentencing. The benefit of a no contest plea is that it cannot be used as evidence against the Defendant in any associated civil trial, unlike a guilty plea.

Pleas of guilty or no contest will send you straight to sentencing, while a not guilty plea will begin the process that can eventually lead to trial or a negotiated plea bargain.

If you have an arraignment coming up, call Rideout Law Group right away so we can review your case and build your defense before you enter a plea.



With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.

Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:

  • charges that are reduced or dropped.
  • top experts reviewing your case.
  • aggressive negotiations with the prosecution for plea bargains.
  • fines or probation in lieu of jail time.

At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.

Call us today for a free consultation at 480-584-3328.

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