Plea of nolo contendere

Nolo contendere

[noh-loh kuhn-ten-duh-ree]
Nolo contendere is a legal term that comes from the Latin for "I will not contend it." 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.

In many jurisdictions a plea of Nolo contendere is not a right, and carries various restrictions on its use. In the United States, state law determines whether, and under what circumstances a defendant may plead no contest. Several other common law countries, however, prohibit the plea altogether.

In Australia, a plea of Nolo contendere by a defendant in a criminal trial is not permitted. The defendant must enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Where a defendant refuses to enter a plea, the court will record a plea of not guilty.

One of the most famous Nolo contendere pleas in U.S. history was that of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, who was accused of crimes committed while he was the Governor of Maryland. Mr. Agnew pleaded Nolo contendere in a Maryland court to the charges. Eventually, Agnew was forced to resign as Vice President.

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 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.

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, and most state rules which parallel them, Nolo contendere pleas may not be used to defeat the hearsay prohibition if offered as an "Admission of [a] Party-Opponent". 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.

In some jurisdictions, such as the U.S. state of Texas, the right to appeal the results of a plea bargain taken from a plea of Nolo contendere is highly restricted. In Texas, 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.

See also

References

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