Nolo contendere is a legal term that comes from the Latin for "I do not wish to contend." 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.
Derived from English common law, several common law jurisdictions, including the United States, also adopted the nolo contendere concept.
In the United States, state law determines whether, and under what circumstances, a defendant may plead no contest. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure only allow a nolo contendere plea to be entered with the court's consent; before accepting the plea, the court is required to "consider the parties' views and the public interest in the effective administration of justice."
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 contendere 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.
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