The criminal justice system in the U.S. is far more complex and complicated than most people realize. For instance, did you know that a person accused of a crime doesn’t have to plead either guilty or not guilty to the charges? A number of different pleas can be entered, including a plea of no contest.

No contest pleas are not uncommon, including in cases where a person is accused of prostitution or solicitation. However, there are some critical elements of pleading no contest that you should understand should you find yourself in a position to enter a plea.

To begin with, you can plead no contest to a charge if you want to avoid going to trial. It doesn’t mean you are admitting guilt, but it does mean you are not going to challenge the charge. Some people plead no contest because they want to avoid the uncertainty of a trial; others plead no contest to prevent personal and sensitive information from being released at trial.

However, a judge doesn’t have to accept this plea, and you aren’t going to escape consequences if the plea is accepted. You will still face sentencing as if you had pleaded guilty, though there may be some negotiation with prosecutors that result in dropped or reduced charges if you plead no contest.

Whether a no contest plea is right for a specific case will depend on the details of that case and the people involved. It is not right for every situation, and other pleas can prove to be much more appropriate and successful.

If you are in the position to enter a plea for a criminal charge and asking the question posed in this headline, hopefully you recognize the fact that you should have legal representation. Proceeding without experienced legal guidance can prove to be a critical error that could cost you much more than money. Before you make any decisions about your legal options and defense strategy, it is vital that you first consult an attorney.