Back in May, a sting operation conducted by the L.A. Sheriff’s Department targeting child predators resulted in the arrest of S. Brown, 64, of Saugus, California. Brown was charged with one felony count of meeting a minor for lewd purposes. On November 17, Brown pleaded “no contest” to the charges and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 8th, 2015.
Pleading “no contest” (formally known as no lo contendere) is likely a term you’ve heard before, and it is one of four possible pleas that can be entered at an arraignment. The other options are: guilty, not guilty, and not guilty by reason of insanity. When an individual enters a plea, it is the formal act of a judge noting the defendant’s plea after he or she has been formally informed, in court, of the crimes alleged against him.
When someone enters a “no contest” plea, it is essentially stating that the defendant admits to the truth of the prosecutor’s facts, but does not admit to actually carrying out the crime himself. When someone pleads “no contest,” it is often taken the same as pleading guilty and the defendant is convicted of the crime and sentenced accordingly.
So, you may be thinking, “What’s the difference between pleading guilty and pleading ‘no contest’?” Sometimes there is a difference and sometimes, not. When an individual pleads guilty, they are admitting the facts of the case are true, that they committed the crime, and they accept sentencing for that crime. However, when someone admits that the facts of the case are true, but not to their own guilt, it can make the outcome of the case unusable against the defendant when/if a civil case is brought against them. It also allows a defendant to appeal certain rulings by the court.
It is very important to note that the above facts only hold true in “no contest” pleas in misdemeanor cases. In felony cases, a “no contest” plea is handled exactly like a guilty plea. The ruling can (and likely will be) used against the defendant in any ensuing civil trial.
In the case of S. Brown, the crime of meeting a child for lewd purposes falls under California Penal Code 288.4 PC and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The level of the charge will end up depending on the circumstances of the crime and the past criminal record of the accused. Since Brown was charged with felony-level violation of PC 288.4, he faces possible sentences which include: formal probation, up to 1-year in county jail OR up to 3-years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Additionally, Brown will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, regardless of what other penalties he faces.