Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian

(972) 369-0577

We Pick Up the Phone Every Time; Call 24 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week

What Is a No-Contest Plea?

If you’re charged with and convicted of a crime, you could be sentenced to significant time in jail or prison and/or be ordered to pay a fine. You could lose your freedom or could face financial debt, or both. Before you go to trial to defend yourself against your charges, there are other points in the process where a decision you make could affect the consequences of your charges.

After you’re charged with a crime, you have the opportunity to respond to the charges the government has levied against you. At your arraignment hearing, you formally enter a plea. A plea is a defendant’s statement of whether they admit to the charges or not. Before you enter a plea, you need to thoroughly consider which plea is best for your case. There are several types of pleas, one of which is a no-contest plea.

Defining a No-Contest Plea

A no-contest plea, derived from the Latin term “nolo contendere,” which means “I do not wish to contend,” may seem slightly contradictory. When a defendant pleads no contest to a criminal charge, they’re neither admitting guilt nor proclaiming their innocence. This plea will have the same legal effect as a guilty plea. A defendant’s no-contest plea informs the court that they’re accepting the charges. In Texas, you have to ask the court for permission to plead no contest. You don’t have a right to plead no contest.

You may be able to plea bargain with the prosecutors. You and your attorney could reach an agreement for you to plead no-contest to the charges, and in exchange, they may offer a lesser sentence. The prosecutor may even offer to charge you with a lesser offense if you agree to plead no contest.

Benefits and Consequences of a No-Contest Plea

There are a few benefits and consequences of pleading no contest.

By pleading no-contest and not admitting guilt of the offenses for which you’re alleged to have committed, you can avoid having an admission of guilt being used against you in a future civil case. If you’re alleged to have harmed someone, the harmed person(s) could file a civil lawsuit against you. When you admit guilt in your criminal case, the harmed person(s) could use your admission of guilt to prove your liability in civil court. But by pleading no-contest, even though you’re accepting the penalties of being convicted for the crime, your plea can’t be used against you in civil court.

Additionally, you could escape the long, drawn-out process of having to defend yourself in a trial. After a trial, you may or may not be convicted of the charges. If you’re convicted, you’re at the mercy of the judge and the punishment that they sentence you to. By pleading no contest, you avoid the uncertainty and time-consuming nature of a trial. You also potentially avoid costly legal fees to pay a criminal defense attorney to represent you throughout the remainder of the process up to and through trial.

A potential downside of deciding to plead no contest is that the judge overseeing your case may not accept your plea. You may have gone through grueling consideration of how you wanted to plead and may have even accepted a plea bargain that would reduce the amount of time you may be sentenced to serve in prison. A judge could reject your plea and the agreement prosecutors made with you, and now you’re back to square one.

Other Types of Pleas

The two other types of pleas are guilty and not guilty. A “not guilty” plea means you’re not admitting to the crimes you’re being charged with. This sets up a series of events that will ultimately culminate with a trial, where prosecutors will present their case against you, and you’ll have to defend yourself against the charges.

A “guilty” plea means you’re guilty of the crimes you’ve been charged with. This plea shouldn’t be confused with a no-contest plea. By pleading guilty, you’re accepting both guilt and the punishment that results from your conviction. With a no-contest plea, you’re only accepting punishment for your conviction while not admitting guilt.

Call a Defense Lawyer Right Now

You should discuss your options and whether you should plead no-contest in your case with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The Collin County criminal defense lawyers of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian are committed to protecting your rights and advocating for your innocence against the prosecutors who are alleging your guilt. To discuss your case, call Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian today at (972) 369-0577 so we can schedule your free consultation.

Written by: Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Last Updated : April 13, 2022