No Contest (“nolo contendere”) – a plea by which the defendant does not contest or admit guilt

     This page is continued from Criminal Law Self-Help >>>> Criminal Proceedings >>>> Arraignment >>>> Pleas (criminal):



1. A criminal defendant’s  plea that, while not admitting guilt, the defendant will not dispute the charge.  *  This plea is often preferable to a guilty plea, which can be used against the defendant in a later civil lawsuit. — aka no-contest plea; nolo contendere; non vult contendere.

nolo plea:

1. A plea by which the defendant does not contest or admit guilt.  See Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(b).

nolo contendere:

1. [latin: “I do not wish to contend”]  NO CONTEST. — Often shortened to nolo. [1]

1. Literally, “I do not wish to content.”  Substantially, though not technically, a plea of guilty, an implied confession; a quasi confession of guilt. 21 Am J2d Crim L § 497.

A plea recognized in administrative proceedings. Re 17 Club, Inc. 26 NJ Super 43, 97 A2d 171.
     It is difficult to define the exact nature of a plea of nolo contendere; regardless of the label attached, the plea for practical purposes is a plea of guilty, or the equivalent thereof.  United States v Safeway Stores, Inc. (DC Tex) 20 FRD 451. [2]

1. Means “I do not wish to content.”  A plea in a criminal case, also referred to as no contest, which, although it is essentially the same as a guilty plea, and carries the same consequences with respect to punishment, can be entered only with leave of court, because it is not admission of responsibility and cannot be used against the defendant in a civil action based upon the same facts. [3]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.


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