How Nolo Contendere Works

Research from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals over 95% of criminal convictions are because the defendant pleaded guilty to all or some charges. It means that instead of appearing before a court of law, the defendant has agreed to plead guilty.

However, a nolo contendere, a Latin word that means no contest, is quite different because the defendant has not accepted that he or she is guilty of the criminal charge. Still, the person has agreed to be convicted or face whatever punishment for the crime. The main reason why most people do a nolo contendere plea is that they don't want to be responsible for whatever happens in a related case.

Example of Nolo Contendere

For example, Mr. A and Mr. B fought, which led to Mr. A hitting Mr. B's head. A police report was documented, which led the local police to charge Mr. A for criminal assault. Later on, if Mr. B hires an injury lawyer to help him sue Mr. A for hitting him, it is advised that Mr. A pleads a nolo contendere instead of pleading guilty. When this happens, Mr. A will not pay for the treatment of Mr. B because he did not plead guilty of the charge but a nolo contendere.

Nolo Contendere vs. Guilty Plea

There are many significant differences between a nolo contendere and a guilty plea. Some of them are listed below.

  • When a person pleads Nolo contenders, it doesn't mean the person is admitting his or her guilty, unlike a guilty plea. Therefore you cannot use the petition against the person in a related case.
  • A defendant is not always allowed to request a nolo contendere, unlike a guilty plea. A judge must have listened to both parties before deciding if the defendant has the right to petition a nolo contendere. The judge must also put the general public's interest at heart before allowing a defendant to plea a nolo contendere.
  • A judge may deny a defendant the right to a nolo contendere plea if they think it might pass a wrong message to the public about the justice system.

History of Nolo Contendere

The system of justice for Americans is based on the English common law. As a result of this, the term nolo contendere originates from the foundation of legal English. Meaning "no contest," nolo contendere functions precisely the way it works now. Back in medieval times in England, nobody knew how a defendant might have benefited. However, those periods were very harsh and could have sometimes been less complicated by preferring to be punished than engage in arguments with the people in charge.

There are many famous nolo contendere, but one of the primarily recognized nolo contendere pleas was Vice President Agnew. This nolo contendere took place in 1973, which saw him pled a charge of no contest for the falsification of return of taxes. The plea permitted the court to move the matter forward quickly before it swept the media.

However, it was already unrest over Watergate. With more than fifty-nine states in America, many conditions allow the plea of nolo contendere, but a few states do not permit it.