What is a No Contest Plea in Court?

Sometimes in court, a defendant may choose to enter a no-contest plea.

But what is a “no contest plea”?

In this article, I expound on the meaning of a “no-contest plea” and what such a plea signifies for the court and the defendant.

What is a “no contest plea” in court?

An image of a person testifying inside a witness stand
In a “no contest plea” the defendant neither accepts nor denies responsibility for the crimes that he has been charged with

A “no contest plea” is also known as nolo contendere in Latin.

In legal terms, a “No contest plea” is a plea in a criminal prosecution that without admitting guilt subjects the accused person to conviction.

This means that the accused person neither denies nor admits responsibility for the charges they are facing in court.

Therefore, when a defendant enters a “no contest plea”, they waive the right to a trial and accept whatever penalty that the court will mete out

Additionally, once a defendant enters this plea, then the plea cannot be used against the defendant in any future suits. This is because they never denied or accepted the charges that they were facing.

The courts have the discretion whether to allow the “no contest plea”. In some states, such a plea is forbidden.

However, in federal courts, the Rules of Federal Criminal Procedure allow defendants to enter a “no contest plea”. with the court’s permission. The court will usually consider the party’s circumstances and overall public policy considerations.

Here are two frequently asked questions concerning nolo contendere.

Is there a difference between a nolo contendere and a guilty plea?

Yes. There is a difference between the two pleas.

When a defendant pleads guilty, they accept responsibility for a crime.

Divergently, when a defendant enters a “no contest plea”, they neither confirm nor deny responsibility for the crime that they are accused by the court of committing.

In addition,  once an accused person pleads no contest plea, then the plea cannot be used against them. However, if an accused person pleads guilty, then the plea can be used against them in the future.

What is the difference between an Alford Plea and a “no contest plea”?

An Alford plea is also known as a best-interest plea.

Unlike a “no contest plea”, an Alford plea registers a formal admission of guilt toward charges in a criminal court.

However, the defendant simultaneously expresses their innocence towards those same charges. This formal admission of guilt means that the defendant agrees that the plea can be used against them in future suits.

Similar to a “no contest plea”, the defendant also skips the trial when they register an Alford plea.