You are charged with a criminal offense in Texas. The judge asks you, on the spot, how you plead to the offense. What are your options?
You might have discussed this with your attorney, or you might not have an attorney. A quick primer to the three different types of pleas available:
What it means: You don't admit to guilt, and you wish to contest the charges against you.
What it does: This is the plea you will enter if you wish to go to trial and make the state prove its case against you. Keep in mind that you may change your plea later if you wish, or that you may still be found guilty if the state proves its case against you.
What it means: You admit to being guilty of the charged offense.
What it does: The judge may enter a finding of guilt, or he may not and defer a finding of guilt until after a probationary period (this is known as deferred adjudication.) You may be sentenced in accordance with a plea bargain made with the prosecutor, or the judge may reject the plea bargain and sentence you according to his own wishes; or, you may plead guilty without a plea bargain in place and allow the judge to sentence you.
No Contest (or Nolo Contendre)
What it means: You don't admit to being guilty of the charged offense, but you elect not to contest the charges against you.
What it does: In most cases, a plea of nolo contendre is functionally the same as a guilty plea: you will be found guilty (or the judge will defer a finding of guilt) and sentenced. The only difference between a plea of nolo contendre and a guilty plea is in a civil matter; in civil court, a guilty plea can be used against you as an admission of guilt, but a nolo contendre plea cannot since there is no admission of guilt. This might be important if, for example, you were charged with intoxication manslaughter and the family of the victim filed a wrongful death suit against you; however, in most instances, a nolo contendre plea is no different than a guilty plea.