What is a No Contest Plea?

We often here the phrase “no contest” or “nolo contendere” in those legal dramas on television, and since the defendant is sentenced or fined or whatever, it seems the same as pleading guilty. But it isn’t that, precisely.

A plea of no contest means that the defendant is not disputing the charges but not admitting to it either, and may not have to allocute (make a formal statement about the crime to the court). Technically, then, it is not a guilty plea, although for the purpose of sentencing it comes to about the same. An important distinction with a no contest plea is that there is no admission of guilt, and therefore it cannot be used as an admission of fault in a civil lawsuit i.e. wrongful death.

Most people who are in deep trouble with the law for a crime have no idea about what they should do. They could be giving up viable legal options because they do not have the knowledge that can save them a lot of grief, maybe even an acquittal. In many cases where the evidence is overwhelming, the lawyer may advise the defendant to agree to a no contest plea to mitigate civil consequences.

However, a no contest plea is not an automatic right of a criminal defendant; it is a privilege regulated by state law. Before a no contest plea can be entered into the record, the court has to approve it first based on a number of factors, including if the defendant is doing so voluntarily with full knowledge of the consequences. As discussed on the website of Mark Lassiter, Attorney at Law in Dallas, it is the duty of a criminal defense attorney to explain to the defendant all the options available in a particular case.

Legal terminology can be confusing, which is why having a Austin criminal attorney handle that side of things is usually a very good idea when you are charged with a crime. Additionally, a lawyer’s help can help you make sure your plea deal is fair for you.


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