According to Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 590 a defendant has several options when entering pleas.  The defendant may plead not guilty and proceed to a judge or jury trial.  A defendant may plead guilty as a general plea to the entire criminal information or the defendant may plead guilty to a negotiated plea agreement.  Alternatively, the defendant may take a nolo contendere plea.  In a nolo contendere plea, the defendant neither admits nor disputes the charge.  The defendant is sentenced the same as they would be after entering a guilty plea and the effect on subsequent criminal proceedings is the same.   The real difference between guilty pleas and nolo contendere pleas is their effect on subsequent civil actions.  After the accused enters their formal plea, the judge will ask a series of questions to ensure that the plea is voluntarily and understood.  This series of questions is called a guilty plea colloquy.

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