FREE Case Review (866) 588-0600

Understand the Pros & Cons of a No Contest Plea
(Definition & Types)

Awards & recognition
C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Schmidt & Clark, LLP is not currently accepting these types of cases and has posted this content for information purposes only. We encourage you to seek a qualified attorney, if you feel you might have a case.

A no-contest plea allows a defendant to avoid an explicit admission of guilt while still accepting conviction and consequences. But is it the right choice to plead no contest?

With years of experience as a criminal defense attorney, I have guided numerous clients through the complexities of the legal system, helping them make well-informed decisions regarding their cases.

In this article, I will tell you all you need to know about a no-contest plea, its pros and cons, and how it differs from a guilty plea. 

Quick Summary

  • A no-contest plea is a type of plea in a criminal case where the defendant does not admit guilt but accepts the legal consequences of the offense.
  • By entering a no-contest plea, you can avoid facing a civil lawsuit.
  • The main difference between a guilty and no contest plea is that the former involves an admission of guilt, while the latter does not.

What Is A No Contest Plea?

A lawyer writing on paperworkA no-contest plea, also called a nolo contendere plea, is when a defendant enters a plea in which they do not admit guilt to the criminal offense [1]. This type of plea can be submitted in a criminal court case.

It also means that they will not contest the charges and are willing to accept the legal consequences of the offense.

This can include a fine, probation, incarceration, or any other sentence the court considers appropriate.

Still, if you had decided to plead no contest and go to a criminal trial, the prosecutor would have to present the evidence they had against you in criminal prosecution.

Entering a no-contest plea is usually done to prevent oneself from being sued in civil court crime. 

Related Article:  What to Expect in a Preliminary Hearing?

 Advantages Of The No-Contest Plea

There are several potential benefits to entering a no-contest plea, including:

  • Avoiding admission of guilt: Unlike a guilty plea, a no-contest plea does not involve an admission of guilt. This can benefit defendants who want to avoid the stigma of being labeled a convicted criminal.
  • Avoiding the risk of a civil lawsuit: Because a no-contest plea does not mean they plead guilty, it may be more difficult for someone to bring a civil lawsuit against the defendant based on the same conduct. So here are more reasons to enter a No-Contest Plea.

Disadvantages Of A No-Contest Plea

A lawyer looking at the disadvantages of a no contest plea

While there are potential benefits to entering a no-contest plea, there are also some drawbacks to consider, including:

  • Limited ability to appeal: Because a no-contest plea does not involve an admission of guilt, it is often more challenging to appeal than a guilty plea.
  • Potential negative consequences in future legal proceedings: Although a no-contest plea does not involve an admission of guilt, it can still be used as evidence against the defendant in future legal proceedings. This can include both criminal and civil cases.

Can I Appeal The No-Contest Plea?

Yes, you can appeal a no-contest plea, but the grounds for doing so are limited. In most cases, the defendant must show that they did not comprehend the consequences of entering the plea or that some other defect in the plea process resulted in a miscarriage of justice. 

"A no-contest plea has some similarities to a guilty plea, except that the victim in the case cannot file a lawsuit against you in a civil court for damages later on."
- Jeremy Rosenthal, Founder of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Law Firm, Texas

What Is The Main Difference Between A Guilty Plea And A No-Contest Plea?

A lawyer doing paperwork in an officeThe main difference between a guilty plea and a no-contest plea is that the former involves an admission of guilt, while the latter does not. When a defendant decides to plead guilty, they essentially admit that they committed the offense charged.

When a defendant pleads no contest to charges, it is essentially an admittance of guilt without explicitly stating so. As a criminal defendant, one is entitled to a jury trial and is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

A no-guilty plea means that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.

If the prosecutor fails to do so, the defendant will be acquitted of the charges. To plead no contest means that a jury trial must be a prerequisite to any conviction.

Also Read: Can You Withdraw a Guilty Plea After Sentencing?

The Main Difference Between Guilty And No Contest Lies In Civil Cases

A lawyer looking at civil cases in an officeAlthough it may appear insignificant, one of the significant differences between pleading guilty and no contest is the impact it can have on a civil case. In many instances, criminal penalties are not the only legal consequences of an incident. 

A person may also face a civil lawsuit if someone is injured due to their actions. For example, if you are charged with DUI, you may also face a case for the injured party's damages in addition to the criminal justice process.

When a defendant faces a criminal conviction, there are various reasons why they may plead guilty or no contest [2].

In both cases, the defendant can address the court before sentencing. This allows them to express remorse, explain their actions, and potentially receive a lighter sentence.

However, it's important to note that the judge may view a guilty plea as an admission of responsibility.

This means the defendant accepts full accountability for the crime they are charged with, which can affect the judge's decision during sentencing. 

Plea Bargains Often Include No Contest Pleas

Two lawyers talking about plea bargains in an officeMost people who plead no contest do so as part of a plea bargain. Otherwise, it would not make sense to waive your right to fight the charges and leave your fate in the hands of the judge. 

Generally, you do not have to choose between a guilty plea and no contest. However, this could be a matter of negotiation in plea bargain discussions, mainly if the offense could result in a civil lawsuit.

Your criminal defense attorney will advise you on whether you should plead guilty.

Related Articles:

See all related personal injury and accident lawsuits our lawyers have taken on.


Should I Enter A No-Contest Plea If I Am Innocent?

No, you should not enter a no-contest plea if you are innocent. If you believe you are innocent, consult a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options for fighting the charges in your criminal case.

What Is An Alford Plea?

An Alford plea is a plea where the defendant asserts their innocence but acknowledges that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction. This plea is named after the landmark 1970 case of North Carolina v. Alford, in which the Supreme Court ruled that this type of plea is constitutional.

What Is Nolo Contendere?

Nolo contendere is another term for a no-contest plea. The Latin phrase means "I do not wish to contend." This type of plea is available in most jurisdictions. It can be a useful option for defendants who want to avoid admitting guilt but are willing to accept the legal consequences of the offense.

Speak To Criminal Defense Lawyers Today

If you are facing criminal charges, seeking legal representation from an experienced criminal defense lawyer is essential. Schmidt & Clark, LLP law firm has a team of skilled criminal defense lawyers who can provide the guidance and advocacy you need.

Our attorneys have extensive experience handling various criminal cases, from misdemeanors to felonies, and will work hard to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your case.