What Doesn’t Work: Making a citizen’s arrest on your cellmate, Bubba, to show the police that you are really on their side.
What Works: Knowing when you should plead “no contest” as opposed to “guilty.” In most situations, they have exactly the same effect—you will get the same penalty from the judge.
However, if you think you might be sued in civil court for something relating to your criminal case, you should always plead “no contest” instead of pleading “guilty.” In a car accident, for example, if you plead “guilty” to the traffic citation, and the other driver sues you in civil court, the guilty plea can be used against you as an admission of wrong doing, and you may end up paying double for one mistake. However, if you plead “no contest,” you are not admitting guilt, and it cannot be used as an admission in a civil case.
On the other hand, if you are not being sued for anything, and you have decided not to negotiate your case any further, it is usually better to plead “guilty” instead of “no contest,” because it gives the judge the impression that you are accepting responsibility. This is especially the case with more serious charges—the more you can show the judge that you understand how serious the case is, the less he will feel like he needs to “help you” understand the seriousness by imposing greater penalties.