What is a plea of no contest? When a individual is faced with criminal charges, the individual must decide how to plead in their case. Generally, they have the following options available to them:

  • Guilty;
  • Not guilty; or
  • No contest;

“Guilty” and “Not Guilty” pleas meanings are fairly easy to determine based off their names. However, this is not true for a plea of “No Contest.”

No Contest – Nolo Contendere

Although generally referred to as a plea of “No Contest,” the official term that a defendant must plea is “Nolo Contendere,” a Latin phrase that means no contest.

In a criminal matter, a defendant is allowed to plead No Contest, which means that the defendant accepts or agrees to the punishment for the crime, but does not accept or deny legal responsibility.

Although this seems similar to a guilty plea in that the defendant is punished for his actions, it is fundamentally different because unlike a guilty plea, a no contest plea cannot be used against a defendant in another action.

plea of no contest

Importance of Legal Responsibility

When a defendant uses a No Contest plea, it provides valuable legal protection in the future. Although the defendant will have to accept any punishment or fines that come with the offense, they will not be considered to have accepted responsibility for the crime.

This is important because of the legal concept of estoppel. Estoppel prevents an individual from mounting a defense against a claim if they have previously accepted responsibility for that claim. Basically, it prevents a person from doubling back on their word.

This is especially important when a defendant in a criminal matter may additionally face a civil suit in the same matter.


To understand how this works, consider the following example: James is involved in an accident with Dan. In the investigation, a police officer charges James with speeding. James pleads No Contest to the speeding charge and pays the appropriate fine.

After consulting with a lawyer, Dan decides to file a civil suit against James claiming that James’s reckless driving caused the accident. To prove the reckless driving claim, Dan wants to show that James was speeding prior to the accident. In the civil suit, since James plead No Contest to the speeding charge, Dan cannot use the No Contest plea to show that James admitted to speeding.

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If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.

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