The term nolo contendere, or “nolo” for short, means that you are pleading “no contest” to criminal charges. By pleading “nolo,” you also are indicating that the State has enough evidence against you to convict you, but that you are not disputing this point. Hence, “no contest.”
In application, many people misunderstand what nolo contendere is and what it means when you enter a “nolo” plea at Court. Some people might think of pleading “nolo” as a quick and easy way out of a criminal case. However, this is not what nolo contendere is. Pleading “nolo” can carry its own collateral consequences, just like a guilty plea. It is essential for an accused person to understand what pleading “nolo” means for him or her individually before deciding to plead “no contest.” Here are some common questions about “nolo” and one criminal defense attorney’s perspective on when to contemplate “nolo.”
Is pleading “Nolo” the same as pleading “Not Guilty”?
Pleading “no contest” is not pleading “Not Guilty.” Only pleading “Not Guilty” is pleading “Not Guilty.” If you do not wish to enter a guilty plea, then you must plead Not Guilty to fight the charges. Pleading “nolo” will not result in a dismissal of the criminal charge or make the charge go away by any means. By entering a Not Guilty plea, you are not being disagreeable or confrontational. The Court will not hold a Not Guilty plea against you.
You are acting well within your rights to enter Not Guilty at Court, even if you think that the police “got you” in their police report. The State’s attorney’s job is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a crime. The Not Guilty plea simply asks the District Attorney to fulfill their role in the justice system. The surest way to resolve the criminal charges favorably is to fight the case with the representation of legal counsel.
Is pleading “Nolo” the same as pleading “Guilty”?
Technically, pleading “no contest” and pleading “guilty” are not the same. However, the effects of pleading guilty and pleading “no contest” are the same. In both cases, you would be convicted of the criminal charge against you. Criminal convictions are added to your permanent adult criminal record, which can be viewed in criminal background checks. In this way, pleading “nolo” will not make the criminal charges go away. Depending on the criminal charge you were facing, there could be significant consequences outside of the charges going on your record.
The situation in which the difference between “Guilty” and “no contest” matters the most is whether the accused also expects to face civil liability (i.e. damages) in connection with the criminal charge. In these circumstances, a plea of “guilty” would be considered an admission to civil liability, while a plea of “nolo” would not. As a result, a “nolo” plea to a criminal charge cannot be used against you later in a civil case as an admission of liability.
Should I ever plead nolo contendere?
The short answer is that it depends on your individual circumstances whether or not you should plead no contest. If you do plead no contest, it should be only under the advice of a criminal defense attorney. In other words, never plead “nolo” alone.
Are there any benefits to pleading “Nolo”?
Whether there are any benefits to entering a plea of “no contest” instead of “guilty” depends on the unique facts and circumstances of your individual case. In one instance, pleading “nolo” would benefit you by helping you avoid civil liability (i.e. damages) that might be connected to the criminal charges. For example, in a criminal case involving a charge for Assault, there is the criminal penalty. If the defendant had pleaded guilty that person could also face potential civil liability for the victim’s injuries, including medical bills. In contrast, if the defendant has pleaded nolo, that person could not be used to show admission to civil liability for the victim’s damages. Your criminal defense lawyer would be able to identify whether or not pleading no contest might benefit you.
Contact a Maine Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges and has questions about nolo, I encourage you to contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. We will take the time to answer your questions and to put your mind at ease as we work with you to determine a defense strategy. It is well worth your time to check out:
If you would like to call us now at (207) 571-8555, we can begin to develop your case strategy. If you enjoyed this article on Nolo Contendere Pleas, you may also want to read: