Criminal Law

What Does Pleading “No Contest” Mean?

what does pleading no contest mean

Are you in some legal soup and can’t figure out a few things? Are you thinking, what does pleading no contest mean? Well, you have come to the right place because we will tell you all about pleading no contest in a case! We have also included a bonus section on pleading guilty and the difference between the two types of pleading

We came across several real-life situations where people had no idea that pleading guilty and pleading ‘no contest’ are entirely different concepts. Instead, they were assumed to be the same thing. Yes, both have a similar kind of effect on any criminal case, but there are specific vital differences. 

So without wasting any further time, let’s dive straight into the legality of these terms and the difference between the two.

What Does Pleading No Contest Mean? 

What Does Pleading No Contest Mean?

First things first. Before pleading guilty or no contest in a court of law, always consult with your criminal defense lawyer and comprehend the meanings of both statements. Now coming to pleading no contest, it’s pretty literal. We know that when someone pleads guilty, it basically means that the person is admitting guilt. 

Now you will say that’s precisely what pleading no contest means. Well, not exactly. Instead, when you choose to plead no contest,  you are admitting guilt but without any factual evidence. Thus, in one case, it’s out and about an admission of guilt, while in the other case, you are just agreeing, but there’s no factual admission. 

A defendant faces the same sentence in case of pleading guilty or no contest. However, Also known as the ‘nolo contendere’, a no-contest plea can never be used against a defendant as an admission of guilt during civil proceedings in misdemeanor cases specifically. Thus, a judge in a no-contest plea case would, 

  • Ensure that the defendant understands the full ramifications of the plea. 
  • Inform the accused that a no-contest plea would not be considered a plea of guilt.
  • Make sure that the defendant is pleading no contest voluntarily instead of being forced for the same. 

In this context, one thing needs to be noted down. Did you know that in felony cases, both no contest and guilty pleas have the exact same effect, especially in terms of legal jurisdiction? Interestingly, defendants always are not given the alternative to pleading with any contest. Sometimes, pleading guilty might be the only available alternative as a part of some bargain. Also, judges do not need to always accept any contest plea.

Characteristics Of No Contest Pleas: 

Characteristics Of No Contest Pleas

Now that you know what does pleading no contest mean and also have a fair idea about no contest vs guilty pleading, it is time to understand the two basic characteristics of a no-contest plea. Scroll down to find out!

1. Pleading No Contest Is Also An Admission Of Your Guilt

When you choose to plead no contest, you are basically doing the same as pleading guilty and admitting you are the one at fault. As a defendant in a criminal case, you naturally have the right to ask for a trial, and you are technically innocent until the opposition proves you guilty. If you plead not guilty, then in that case the prosecutor has to prove otherwise. 

Until proven not guilty, you cannot be acquitted of charges. Thus pleading not guilty basically means you have not done what you are being accused of doing. On the other hand, when you choose to plead guilty, it is taken as an admittance of your guilt, and similarly, when you plead no contest, it means the same. 

But in that case, you are not explicitly admitting you are guilty. Instead, you get convicted nonetheless, but you will be able to avoid a pretty lengthy trial in that case!

2. No Contest Pleas Are Generally A Part Of Plea Bargains

All this information might make you wonder what does no contest means in court because you can simply obtain a lighter sentence by going for a plea bargain. Well. Here’s the deal. Did you know that a defendant can argue no-contest and still have a plea bargain? In fact, it is a better alternative for you than admitting guilt. 

Now here comes the sad reality. No matter what you plead, your sentence would be most likely the same in both situations. After all, it does not matter how the court reached its decision, and convictions remain the same. There are also examples of rare cases where people opted for pleading no contest because they simply did not want to go through any trial. 

In those cases, the defendants did not enter into any plea bargain. Thus, it is all about whether you are taking responsibility for the crime in question or challenging any particular conviction. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1. What Is The Difference Between Pleading Guilty? 

Ans: The difference between pleading guilty and pleading no contest is that in one case, you are admitting guilt, and in another case, you are not explicitly admitting guilt.

Q2. What Does Guilty Plea Mean In A Criminal Proceeding?

Ans: In this case, you are openly pleading guilty to the crime you have been accused of. This mostly happens as a part of plea bargains during criminal proceedings.

Q3. What Does Pleading Not Guilty Mean?    

Ans: Pleading not guilty means you are not guilty of what you have been accused of, and as a result, you have the right to trial in front of a jury.


Now that you know what no contest means in court, there’s so much that you need to find out. For instance, did you know that the prosecutor can also demand a guilty plea because they might want the defendant to accept the offense? Thus, it’s pretty evident that everyone does not get the privilege of opting for pleading no contest. 

In fact, the court in question might choose not to accept a defendant’s no-contest plea. However, courts are obliged, on the other hand, for allowing guilty pleas. Additionally, for people pleading no contest, the reason is usually a ‘plea bargain.’ This is also pretty evident, considering it does not make much sense to give up your fighting rights and depend on the judge. However, you must always consult your criminal defense lawyer on matters like this before taking a decision.

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Barsha Bhattacharya
Barsha Bhattacharya is a senior content writing executive. As a marketing enthusiast and professional for the past 4 years, writing is new to Barsha. And she is loving every bit of it. Her niches are marketing, lifestyle, wellness, travel and entertainment. Apart from writing, Barsha loves to travel, binge-watch, research conspiracy theories, Instagram and overthink.

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