1) in criminal law, the response by an accused defendant to each charge of the commission of a crime. pleas normally are “not guilty,” “guilty,” “no contest” (admitting the facts, but unwilling to plead “guilty,” thus resulting in the equivalent of a “guilty” verdict but without admitting the crime), or “not guilty by reason of insanity” (at the time of the criminal act). however, the accused may make a “dilatory plea” challenging the jurisdiction of the court or claiming that he/she is the wrong defendant, requiring a special hearing. he/she may admit the acts but have excuses to be considered (a “plea in abatement”), which may affect the judge’s sentence. pleas are entered orally at arraignment (first court appearance) or a continued (postponed) arraignment. if after a preliminary hearing the judge determines the defendant must face trial for a felony, he/she will have to enter a plea again before a judge of the trial court. 2) any written answer or other response filed by a defendant to a complaint or petition in a civil lawsuit.