·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary


What Does Nolo Contendere Mean?

— November 30, 2022

Courts tend to look upon no contest pleas more favorably in some cases and are less likely to impose severe punishments.

When you are accused of a crime, knowing the options you have when it comes to how you plead can make a world of difference in terms of both the punishment you for that crime, and how that plea can be used against you in the future. No one wants a conviction on their record, but sometimes the process of going through a trial and facing charges can be even more costly than pleading guilty. 

However, there is another option. Nolo Contendere is a Latin phrase that means “no contest” and is a plea that can be used in court for a crime, that is not the same as pleading guilty. There are many benefits to this type of plea over a standard guilty plea and when used under the right circumstances, it can save a person a lot of hardship. 

How Does a Nolo Contendere Plea Work? 

When a person pleads “nolo contendere” or “no contest” to a charge, they are essentially accepting the punishment for a crime without admitting guilt. You may be wondering how this can be more beneficial than a guilty plea. 

First, many times if a person agrees to plead no contest, they may face a lesser charge than if the case goes to court. This saves a person time and money and potentially impacts the charges on their criminal record. For example, pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge is much better than going through a court hearing and having the charges be upgraded to felony charges. 

Additionally, legal battles with no guarantee of success can be lengthy and expensive, a no contest plea avoids the court battle and accepts the punishment for the crime but without having an actual “guilty plea” on the record. This is an important legal distinction to have. 

Why a No Contest Plea is Better Than a Guilty Plea 

We’ve already talked about how pleading no contest to a charge can save a person time and money from a court battle and how they may be able to avoid more extensive charges, but there are other reasons why a person may want to use a no contest plea as well.

Handcuffs in front of gavel. Image via Photo credit: George Hodan. Listed as public domain.

With the court system perpetually backed up, it is difficult for judges and prosecutors to effectively try every case. There are simply not enough judges and lawyers to try every case and have it stretched out to the full length that a criminal trial can go to. For this reason, courts tend to look upon no contest pleas more favorably in some cases and are less likely to impose severe punishments, typically for minor crimes or crimes where the damages were minimal. 

This means that the accused may suffer a lighter punishment simply for being cooperative. This is also the case if evidence is able to prove only part of a case, such as when damage is caused by intent cannot be proven, taking this type of case to trial is time consuming when a no contest plea simplifies the entire process. 

Another reason why a no contest plea may be beneficial is in the case of civil action against a person convicted of a crime. If a person pleads guilty to a crime, that plea and the subsequent conviction can be used against them in civil court for the pursuit of damages. However a no contest plea cannot be used as evidence in a civil case, many it cannot be used against a person to seek damages. 

If you need help understanding your rights and whether or not a no contest plea is the right choice for you, you can contact the The Law Office of David A. Breston about no contest pleas and discuss your case today. 

Join the conversation!