Nolo contendere

Nolo contendere

Nolo contendere is a legal term that comes from the Latin for "I do not wish to contend." It is also referred to as a plea of no contest.

In criminal trials, and in some common law jurisdictions, it is a plea where the defendant neither admits nor disputes a charge, serving as an alternative to a pleading of guilty or not guilty.

A no-contest plea, while not technically a guilty plea, has the same immediate effect as a guilty plea, and is often offered as a part of a plea bargain.[1] In many jurisdictions a plea of nolo contendere is not a right, and carries various restrictions on its use.



Derived from English common law, several common law jurisdictions, including the United States, also adopted the nolo contendere concept.

United States

In the United States, state law determines whether, and under what circumstances, a defendant may plead no contest in state criminal cases. In federal court, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure only allow a nolo contendere plea to be entered with the court's consent; before accepting the plea, the court is required to "consider the parties' views and the public interest in the effective administration of justice."[2]

Residual effects

A nolo contendere plea has the same immediate effects as a plea of guilty, but may have different residual effects or consequences in future actions. For instance, a conviction arising from a nolo contendere plea is subject to any and all penalties, fines, and forfeitures of a conviction from a guilty plea in the same case, and can be considered as an aggravating factor in future criminal actions. However, unlike a guilty plea, a defendant in a nolo contendere plea may not be required to allocute the charges. This means that a nolo contendere conviction typically may not be used to establish either negligence per se, malice, or whether the acts were committed at all in later civil proceedings related to the same set of facts as the criminal prosecution.[3]

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence,[3][4] and most state rules which parallel them, nolo contendere pleas may not be used to defeat the hearsay prohibition if offered as an "admission by [a] party-opponent".[5] Assuming the appropriate gravity of the charge, and all other things being equal, a guilty plea to the same charge would cause the reverse effect: An opponent at trial could introduce the plea, over a hearsay objection, as evidence to establish a certain fact.[4]


In Alaska, a criminal conviction based on a nolo contendere plea may be used against the defendant in future civil actions. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that a "conviction based on a no contest plea will collaterally estop the criminal defendant from denying any element in a subsequent civil action against him that was necessarily established by the conviction, as long as the prior conviction was for a serious criminal offense and the defendant in fact had the opportunity for a full and fair hearing".[6][7]


In California, the board of pharmacy considers a plea of nolo contendere to be deemed a conviction with regard to issuing licensing for pharmacies, pharmacist and drug wholesalers.


In Florida, the state Supreme Court held in 2005 that no-contest convictions may be treated as prior convictions for the purposes of future sentencing.[8]


In Texas, the right to appeal the results of a plea bargain taken from a plea of nolo contendere is highly restricted. Defendants who have entered a plea of nolo contendere may only appeal the judgment of the court if the appeal is based on written pretrial motions ruled upon by the court.[9]


Virginia deviates from the federal evidentiary rule in that a nolo contendere plea entered in a criminal case is admissible in a related civil proceeding.


In Australia, the plea of Nolo contendere is not permitted. The defendant must enter a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty". If a defendant refuses to enter a plea, the court will record a plea of "not guilty".[10]

See also


  1. ^ Stephano Bibas (July 2003). "Harmonizing Substantive Criminal Law Values and Criminal Procedure: The Case of Alford and Nolo contendere Pleas". Cornell Law Review 88 (6). Retrieved May 10, 2007. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Legal Information Institute. "United States Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 410(2)". Cornell Law School. Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Legal Information Institute. "United States Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 803(22)". Cornell Law School. Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  5. ^ Legal Information Institute. "United States Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 801(d)(2)". Cornell Law School. Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Drunk driver who pled no contest can't relitigate issue of recklessness",All Business, December 18, 2006, retrieved April 22, 2010
  7. ^ "Lamb v. Anderson No. 6078 (S-11936), P3d 736". Alaska Supreme Court. November 17, 2006. 
  8. ^ "Sheldon Montgomery vs. Florida". Florida Supreme Court. March 17, 2005. 
  9. ^ "Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rule 25.2(a)". Supreme Court of Texas. January 1, 2007. Retrieved May 10, 2007. 
  10. ^ David J. Wills (2007). "Different State jurisdictions govern the plea process through their own legislation". Division 3 Sections 146 146A. 

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  • Nolo contendere — est une expression juridique qui vient du latin et signifie « Je ne souhaite pas contester ». Cette procédure est également connue comme un plaidoyer de « non contestation ». Utilisation Dans les procès pénaux et dans… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • nolo contendere — nolo con·ten·de·re / kən ten də rē, rā/ n [Latin, I do not wish to contend]: a plea by a defendant in a criminal prosecution that without admitting guilt subjects the defendant to conviction as in the case of a guilty plea but that does not bar… …   Law dictionary

  • nolo contendere — no‧lo con‧ten‧de‧re [ˌnəʊləʊ kɒnˈtendəri ǁ ˌnoʊloʊ kən ] noun [uncountable] LAW a plea (= statement ) in which the person accused of a crime says that they will not make a defence: • The majority of those convicted had entered pleas of nolo… …   Financial and business terms

  • Nolo contendere — No lo con*ten de*re [L., I do not wish to contend.] (Law) A plea, by the defendant, in a criminal prosecution, which, without admitting guilt, subjects him to all the consequences of a plea of guilty. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • nolo contendere — Latin, lit. I do not wish to contend. A plea that admits no guilt but subjects the defendant to judgment …   Etymology dictionary

  • nolo contendere — [nō΄lō kən ten′də rē] n. [L, lit., I do not wish to contest (it)] Law a plea by which a defendant in a criminal case does not make a defense but does not admit guilt: it leaves the defendant open to conviction but does not prejudice his or her… …   English World dictionary

  • Nolo contendere — Plea of nolo contendere (auch no contest, stand mute) ist eine mögliche Klageerwiderung in US amerikanischen Gerichtsverhandlungen und bedeutet den Verzicht auf das Bestreiten der behaupteten Straftat. Nolo contendere kommt aus dem Lateinischen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Nolo contendere — Este artículo o sección necesita referencias que aparezcan en una publicación acreditada, como revistas especializadas, monografías, prensa diaria o páginas de Internet fidedignas. Puedes añadirlas así o avisar …   Wikipedia Español

  • nolo contendere — /nowlow kantendariy/ Latin phrase meaning I will not contest it ; a plea in a criminal case which has a similar legal effect as pleading guilty. Hudson v. U. S., 272 U.S. 451, 455, 47 S.Ct. 127, 129, 71 L.Ed. 347. Type of plea which may be… …   Black's law dictionary

  • nolo contendere —  Choosing not to contest (Latin), as in a legal dispute. Many Americans first learned the term when Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned from office in 1973, pleading nolo contendere to charges of tax evasion …   American business jargon

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