What Does Entering A Nolo Contendere Plea In Mean?

by Criminal Defence Blawg on June 5, 2019

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Entering-A-Nolo-Contendere-PleaCriminal defense guide to entering a nolo contendere plea, based on US law:-

The time has come for you to enter a plea after being charged with a criminal offense. You may realize that pleading not guilty won’t fit the crime and pleading guilty can add consequences that you are not ready to face. You do have another option, which can help to protect your legal rights and reduce your penalties after a criminal charge.

You can enter a plea of nolo contendere. Your defense attorney may recommend this plea, but you may have no idea what this exactly means. Nolo contendere is the Latin equivalent of “I do not wish to contend” or essentially no contest. With a nolo contendere plea, you do not admit you are “guilty” nor do you say you are “not guilty” for the criminal offense that you are being charged with.

There are advantages to pleading nolo contendere or no contest for a criminal charge. With a nolo contendere plea, you are essentially saying that you do not admit guilt for the crime but are accepting of the punishment that will be handed down to you for the crime that you may or may not have committed.

Nolo Contendere vs. Guilty Pleas

A nolo contendere plea is quite different than a guilty plea as it avoids the possibility of being immediately found guilty in a civil suit. The way that a nolo contendere plea works is it allows you to accept your punishment without admitting guilt that could put you at a disadvantage in a civil suit.

For example, if you were to plead guilty for a criminal charge, where there was a victim involved, it would be easy for them to use your guilty plea against you. If you pleaded guilty to your criminal charge, you are admitting guilt and therefore would automatically be found guilty in a civil suit without question.

With a nolo contendere plea, you are protecting your legal rights as a defendant in a case. While a nolo contendere plea doesn’t automatically eliminate a civil suit from being brought against you, it does provide you with a fair trial in the case. You have not admitted guilt for a crime that involved another person, so a civil suit may not find you at fault at all.

Guilty pleas rarely happen in a criminal case unless a deal has been struck with the prosecution to reduce penalties if you admit you are guilty of a crime. Only when you know that your rights will be protected and you will not face serious consequences for a crime, would you enter a guilty plea.

Your lawyer would advise you when a guilty plea would be to your advantage in a criminal case. In most instances, a nolo contendere plea would be used unless, of course, you are innocent for the crime you are being charged with.

Disadvantages To Filing A Nolo Contendere Plea

While pleading nolo contendere may seem like your best options, in some states, the judge has to accept this plea as it is not an automatic right to enter it in court. Plus, there is still the possibility that the plaintiff in your case can use it against you in a civil suit.

For example, if you entered a nolo contendere plea and were charged with a misdemeanor over a felony charge, a lawyer could use this as evidence in a civil suit. They may show that you were initially facing a felony but were only charged with a misdemeanor because of your nolo contendere plea.

In short, your best option is to discuss your plea with a defense attorney. They will advise you of how to proceed in your case and what the best plea to enter if for your circumstances really is. While nolo contendere offers significant advantages in a criminal case, it may not be the best idea for your situation. Let a criminal defense attorney help you understand your legal rights and guide you through the legal process of entering a plea in court.

Liz S. Coyle is the Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law. She also serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department. She is responsible for internal and external communications for the firm.

Criminal Defence Blawg

Criminal Defence Blawg

Criminal law blogger at CriminalDefenceBlawg
Criminal Defence Blawg is a criminal law blog, sharing legal expertise and intelligence from the UK, US, Australia and beyond. Contributions from those who share great legal information. Want to get published? Contact us today.
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