Last Updated on July 29, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team
Whatever an individual is charged with, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, the individual is usually given a choice to plea not guilty, guilty, or no contest.
With the first two pleas being straightforward, what does no contest or nolo contendere mean? What are the possible benefits of this plea?
In this article, we break down what this plea means and what the likely outcome could be if this plea is enacted. Read on to find out more about this lesser-known plea.
What If You Were To Plea No Contest?
If you were to plea no contest in court for something like a driving offense, the defendant accepts a conviction but doesn’t accept guilt for the crime.
Essentially you’d submit this plea if you didn’t want to go through a lengthy trial, but you would face the same consequences of a guilty verdict without accepting guilt.
This plea is also used to avoid your case being transferred to a civil claim which could work against you and see you facing further punishment like personal costs to the victim.
So instead of admitting guilt, the defendant concedes that the case looks bad for them, and even though Texas allows for this plea, a judge can decline the request after considering the other parties’ views.
The judge will also consider the public interest in the effective administration of justice to ensure that the defendant doesn’t appear to be seen receiving lenient treatment.
In many cases, the judge has to find a factual basis for a no contest plea so that it could be some type of factor like any past offenses, which could lower the chance of a successful plea.
Benefits Of No Contest Pleas
As mentioned above, this plea can avoid the case being handed to a civil court where the defendant can face suits that involve personal damages.
Another benefit of this plea is that if it’s accepted, you have significantly more options that might not involve a jail sentence.
So if you plea no contest to something like a DUI, you might be able to get away with paying a fine, attending a driving safety course, or a deferred disposition.
If we’re looking at other types of offenses, such as assault, part of the conditions might be that you attend some rehabilitation course such as anger management, and some minor offenses might see you complete a certain amount of hours of community service.
This will depend on the case itself, the evidence provided to the court, any past offenses you have on your record, and in some cases, your mental state to determine the risk of the offense occurring again in the future.
Drawbacks of A No Contest Plea
This plea can bring its share of benefits, but it doesn’t leave the defendant completely unscathed because this plea leads to criminal convictions, and the crime can be referenced in future prosecution against the defendant.
These subsequent convictions can hamper your ability to use the plea again.
You also have to gain permission from the prosecution and subsequently the judge’s permission, and in some cases, this plea might be restricted, as there are a lot of aspects the court has to consider before allowing the plea.
Should You Consider A No Contest Plea?
Before making the request, the defendant should consult with their lawyer about whether this plea will be more effective than a guilty plea.
You might see more high-profile people use this plea to avoid a jail term and prevent it from turning into a civil case, as they can meet most requirements that the judge makes.
It really depends on the nature of your offense and the likelihood that the victim will sue for damages which could be a long and drawn-out process, so weigh your options carefully.
With this knowledge, you can weigh the available options, but it’s wise to note that the no-contest plea doesn’t operate the same in all states and can have restrictions, especially in Texas.
This is where certain criteria must be met that a judge may decide to apply to this type of plea.
In Virginia, for example, a no contest plea is admissible to be entered into a related civil proceeding, so it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer who is knowledgeable in these types of cases so they can discuss the options available.
A good lawyer is going to look at all your options and consider which ones are going to be more effective, but there isn’t anything wrong with seeking advice elsewhere. Thank you for reading.