Should I plead no contest? 38 Answers as of August 31, 2011

I was caught with a fairly large quantity of marijuana when I was visiting a National Park. They also caught me while I was actually smoking marijuana. I was given a ticket to appear in US Court. Should I plead no contest to avoid a big fine and jailtime or should I seek representation? Do they give my a lawyer like in other courts? Will I have a treatment program option of some kind? I havent been in trouble before. How bad is it that they caught me when I was actually smoking it?

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Austin Legal Services, PLC
Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
I suggest always seeking legal counsel for pleading to anything. At least have them review the report for any errors that could get the charges reduced or dismissed. You will need an attorney experienced in federal criminal law as opposed to state law.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/31/2011
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
Under Missouri State Law, there is not really a different in the charges between smoking weed and just having it on you. Both will be charged as possession. Only the amount will matter. If the amount gets too big, you could be charged with distribution. The only different actually smoking it may make: it's much harder to argue it isn't yours, you didn't know it was
there, etc.

Of course this could be handled as a federal case, in which case the controlling law will be federal law, not state law. The general principles regarding evidence, proof, and possible arguments are the same.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 11/28/2010
Timothy J. Thill P.C.
Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
Sorry, I am not familiar with Federal law in this regard. I would assume if the possibility of jail is present, you may get a public defender, or time to retain you own lawyer. Perhaps, you could talk to the prosecuting attorney about a plea bargain, but I am not sure that the DA will be willing to discuss the possible outcome of the case with you. Of course, actually smoking the marijuana when caught is not a good thing!
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 11/20/2010
The Barrix Law Firm
The Barrix Law Firm | Jason Barrix
No Contest is not a free pass! No Contest pleas are only allowed at the discretion of the judge. You have to have good cause to enter a plea of no contest. Further a No Contest plea is treated exactly the same as a guilty plea. It enters as a conviction on your permanent criminal history. It just means you don't have to say you did it. It means you do not contest the charges.

The judge will then take the factual basis for the plea from another source such as a police report, which is the most common practice. You will be subject tot he same penalties.

Judges are can accept No Contest Pleas per Court Rule under the following circumstances[ No memory due to intoxication, potential civil liability, or if the crime was so reprehensible the defendant shame will not allow him to repeat what he done. Again this is discretionary. You should hire a lawyer if for no other reason you do not have a good understanding of how the system works.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 11/20/2010
Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
Hire a lawyer. You can ask for a downward departure from the guideline punishment with or without a lawyer, accordingly, just simply pleading no contest does not benefit you in the least. A lawyer will be able to go over the guidelines with you, advise you of your rights, etc. A lawyer who practice in Federal Court will also be able to help keep the punishment at a minimum, determine if you are eligible for probation, etc.

Once you plea no contest, you have no leverage. The Judge can do as he/she sees fit.

I am licensed in both the Eastern and Western Districts of Texas, and have an application for the Northern ready to file, I just have not gone down and gotten sworn in, so I could represent you on this if you want to hire my firm.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, there are forms to complete with the Court asking for a Court Appointed Lawyer.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 11/19/2010
    Jackson White, PC
    Jackson White, PC | Jeremy Geigle
    If you are caught possessing or using marijuana, you have committed a felony in most jurisdictions. If this is a first offense, you may be eligible for deferred sentencing or a drug rehab program depending upon the jurisdiction in which you were charged. If you by financial affidavit demonstrate to the court that you are unable to afford to pay for a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you. A first time offender may be eligible for some merciful resolutions that do not damage your future. It would be important to consult with a lawyer to make sure you look at all your options.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 11/19/2010
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
    You clearly should at least consult with a lawyer before deciding. You may have an issue regarding the lawfulness of the search. I cannot tell from your question if you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor. Are you a U.S. Citizen? There may be a diversion program available to avoid conviction. All these are considerations that need to be addressed before you make a decision.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/19/2010
    Miller & Harrison, LLC
    Miller & Harrison, LLC | David Harrison
    You should definitely seek legal representation and not try to handle this yourself. Federal charges lead to complex consequences and you need a lawyer to help you figure those out and try to minimize the impacts of this incident on the rest of your life.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 11/19/2010
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    As a former federal prosecutor and currently as a criminal defense attorney, I wholeheartedly recommend that you retain an experienced federal criminal lawyer in your district to represent you in federal court. In the event you are unable to hire a criminal lawyer, then you should inquire about either a federal public defender or appointed counsel. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 11/19/2010
    The Law Office of Craig A. Davis, P.L.L.C.
    The Law Office of Craig A. Davis, P.L.L.C. | Craig A. Davis
    Get a lawyer. Federal drug crime convictions carry very serious direct and collateral consequences.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 11/19/2010
    The Connelly Firm P.C.
    The Connelly Firm P.C. | Thomas Connelly
    I doubt that you were caught with what the law considers a "fairly large" quantity of weed if you were only given a ticket and not arrested. Anyway, the best option is usually to plead "not guilty" and hire an attorney, who will try to get you the best deal he or she can (as he/she is ethically obligated to do). If you cannot afford an attorney, you will be appointed a "federal" public defender. I am admitted to practice in the Eastern District of PA and the District of New Jersey. Please call o set up a free consultation if you are interested in hiring me.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 11/19/2010
    Lawrence Lewis
    Lawrence Lewis | Lawrence Lewis, PC
    Do you think you can dictate your plea offer? After you speak to the prosecutor and get the plea offer, then you write back. If the prosecutor offers you 2 years in prison and you plead no contest, you will in in federal prison for 2 years. I do not know that type of magic you think no contest provides.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 11/18/2010
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C.
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C. | Dennis Roberts
    What U.S. District Court are you in. It makes a big difference. What was the weight of the buds. Any indication of sales or possession for sale (ie scales, pay-owe sheets, baggies, etc.)? A no contest plea is the same as a guilty plea and you will get the same sentence as if you entered a guilty plea. Federal penalties can be very severe depending on the amount you possessed. If you do not have funds you are entitled to the services of the Federal Defender. They are usually excellent lawyers with tons of federal experience. Not that many private practitioners have any considerable federal experience even if they have been doing criminal defense work for 40 years. The fact that you were caught smoking will not make much of a difference if any. The big issue is how much weight you were carrying.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/18/2010
    Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson
    Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson | Michael E. Hendrickson
    Yes, get a lawyer, court-appointed, if you can qualify, to represent you on this federal charge.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 11/18/2010
    Expert Bronx Criminal Lawyers
    Expert Bronx Criminal Lawyers | Alexander Sanchez
    Without question, hire a lawyer. A conviction for marijuana may have a greater impact than you realize. Immigration, employment, security clearances, military,school admission and aid, may all be affected. You must have a lawyer that can counsel you properly, so that you are making a proper, and knowing decision.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 11/18/2010
    Murray Law, LLC
    Murray Law, LLC | Matthew Murray
    NO! Pleading no contest at your first court appearance without first speaking to an attorney is not something that would be advisable. An attorney may see potential defenses or pretrial motions that can be made to suppress evidence which you may not have thought of. Defense attorneys are also usually good at negotiating with prosecutors and can likely get you a better deal than what you would get by simply pleading at the first court appearance. Also, drug offenses tend to carry collateral consequences other than simply jail and a fine. It is important that you are completely informed before you make a decision to plead to a criminal conviction.

    Prosecutors and judges will not hold it against you and up the fine/jail time if you do not plead at your first appearance (most of the time they will if you take the case to trial). I advise all clients that it is best to plead not guilty to give us time to get discovery, do more investigation, decide how to proceed and negotiate a resolution. I would appear in court and explain to the court that you would like to hire an attorney or that you cannot afford an attorney and would like one appointed. They will let you know how to proceed from there.

    As for getting treatment of some kind, that usually depends on the situation. Usually, if you are given probation you will be required to go through treatment. If you get into treatment now you can use that to get a much better deal from the prosecutor, and if you are sentenced, a much better sentence because it shows you are taking responsibility. An attorney can point you in the direction of appropriate treatment facilities.

    How bad is it that they caught you smoking it? Well, it depends. If it is clear as day that they caught you, it certainly limits any defenses of saying you didn't know it was there, but other than that, I don't see how it really hurts you unless it is a situation where you are smoking around a young child or something along those lines. Again, it depends.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 11/18/2010
    The Law Offices of Robert A. Levine
    The Law Offices of Robert A. Levine | Michael G. Levine
    If you plea no contest it will have the same effect as entering a plea of guilty. I would recommend speaking with an attorney before entering a plea of no contest to a federal drug charge.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 10/11/2010
    Smith & John
    Smith & John | Kenneth Craig Smith, Jr.
    You should never plead unless you know the sentence ahead of time. With a large quantity of marijuana, you should definitely seek legal representation.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 10/9/2010
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    A "No Contest" plea has the same effect as a guilty plea and carries with it the same potential jail sentences and fines. It is recorded as a federal conviction. As a result, you would be wise to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Call us for a free consultation.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/9/2010
    The English Law Firm
    The English Law Firm | Robert English
    Without a doubt you should seek legal representation. You have rights and defenses that you may be unaware of. This matter could have serious impact and you need an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/9/2010
    Law Offices of Phil Hache
    Law Offices of Phil Hache | Phil Hache
    To answer the question, I would need a lot more details. Based on what you stated below, it does not look like you appeared in court yet, and to go in pleading blindly "no contest" to what ever charges they have against you is not a good idea. You can call me if you would like to discuss further, but it you had a large quantity of marijuana on you, I would recommend getting an attorney involved.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/8/2010
    Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan
    Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan | Geoffrey M. Yaryan
    A fairly large quantity and you were only given a ticket? That is hard to understand. Anyway pleading no contest is essentially the same as guilty and will not provide you with any different result. I think you should consult an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/8/2010
    Alanna D. Coopersmith, Attorney at Law
    Alanna D. Coopersmith, Attorney at Law | Alanna D. Coopersmith
    US Court as in Federal District Court? You should hire a criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with practicing in federal court.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/8/2010
    Robert P. Jarvis, PC
    Robert P. Jarvis, PC | David Anderson
    The point of pleading guilty or no contest is a very factually specific matter. NO ONE should advise you to plead guilty or no contest unless they have met with you in person, have investigated the facts of your case and advised you of all the possible consequences. For almost every purpose there is no distinction between a guilty plea and a no contest plea. (A no contest plea is usually only needed in a case where the accused cannot actually admit guilt but chooses not to have a trial on the matter for some reason (and there are lots of reasons why people would plead no contest even though they believe they are not guilty)).

    You SHOULD ask the court to appoint a lawyer for you on this matter.

    You SHOULD NOT plead guilty until you have conferred with a lawyer.

    You SHOULD fully understand your maximum possible consequences before you plead guilty or no contest.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 8/12/2010
    Prometheus: A Social Justice Law Firm
    Prometheus: A Social Justice Law Firm | Aly Ebrahimzadeh
    This is a serious charge and I recommend that you seek representation. I handle such matters, and you can call me for a consultation.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/12/2010
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    You face a federal prison sentence. Unfortunately, you may not understand the extent of your problems, so hire an attorney that does. If this is in Southern California, and you are serious about doing so, feel free to contact me.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2010
    Steven Mandell
    Steven Mandell | Law Offices of Steven Mandell
    You should definitely seek representation. No federal (or state judge) would even allow you to plead no contest to a large-scale marijuana charge without a lawyer (including a public defender if you cannot afford to hire a private attorney). You could be facing MANDATORY prison time, depending on how much marijuana you were caught with. The federal sentencing guidelines are VERY severe and it should not be assumed that you will not get a prison sentence if you plead no contest at the first court appearance. Get a lawyer near the court where you will be appearing. The fact that you were smoking marijuana when you were arrested, by the way, is probably not very significant. It is the fairly large quantity of marijuana that you were caught with that IS important. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2010
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    You are dealing with Federal authorities. The Federal laws on marijuana are different than state laws. Get an attorney now.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2010
    Criminal Defense, Inc.
    Criminal Defense, Inc. | Chad Lewin
    You absolutely need legal representation. You are going to Federal Court because this arrest happened at a National Park, and the Federal Sentencing guidelines are extremely harsh on drug crimes. Call me for a free consultation to discuss your case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2010
    Halpern Law Offices
    Halpern Law Offices | Daniel B. Halpern
    Before you make a big decision about how to plead, you should definitely consult with an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2010
    Law Offices of Ramona Hallam
    Law Offices of Ramona Hallam | Ramona Hallam
    Large quantity charges almost always need lawyers. It is unclear what the charges are if they are willing to allow you to go with a fine. I would advise you to call an attorney so someone can give you an "informed" response. There may be consequences you are unaware of.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2010
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