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.