What Does It Mean to Plead No Contest?

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In many jurisdictions, when you're charged with a crime or a traffic violation, you have the option of pleading no contest, also called a nolo contendere plea, in addition to the usual guilty or not guilty pleas. A no contest plea means that you admit the facts presented by the prosecution but don't admit guilt for the crime charged. Once you plead no contest, the court hands down a sentence.

Giving a Statement

When you plead no contest, you have a opportunity to explain why you're not pleading guilty or not guilty. Extenuating circumstances aren't required for you to enter a no contest plea, but depending on the circumstances, you may -- but certainly aren't guaranteed to -- receive a lesser sentence. And, the conviction still goes on your record in the same way it would if you had plead guilty or been convicted at trial.

Differences from a Guilty Plea

When you plead guilty to a crime, you admit not only the facts alleged, but also your guilt. A guilty plea can be used against you in future court proceedings, while a no contest plea cannot. Future proceedings could include a civil lawsuit stemming from the same events. For example, if you plead guilty to a speeding ticket that results in you rear-ending a car and the person who you hit sues you for the damage, he can use your guilty plea to prove that you were speeding at the time of the accident.


About the Author

Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."

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