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You’ve probably heard it many times on TV dramas – a defendant stands up in court and pleads “No Contest”. But what does that really mean?
Pleading no contest to a criminal charge is similar to pleading guilty, but there are some differences. No contest means you’re conceding the charge without admitting guilt and without presenting a defense. There are some things you should know before filing this plea.
One is that you must have the court’s permission to file no contest. It is up to the judge as to whether or not to accept this type of plea.
In filing a no contest plea, you may avoid a trial. This may be a particularly good idea if you and your attorney are uncertain as to the probable outcome of a trial. This plea also is good if the defendant wants to keep things private, which is the case with no trial.
If you plead no contest to a criminal charge, you will have a conviction on your record, just as if you had pled guilty or had been convicted at trial. The advantage of a no contest plea is that it may not be used against you should there be a civil suit filed. So the plea would be a non-issue in a civil lawsuit.
However, the no contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea during the sentencing phase of a case, should you be found guilty. Also, you will still have a criminal record with this plea. So, in that way, it is the same as pleading 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.

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