What is the difference between a No Contest plea and a Guilty plea?

If you've been charged with a crime and have spent some time going over your case with your lawyer you might have considered a plea offer. This is very common in the criminal justice system.  You will take all kinds of considerations and risks into account before you decide to, "take a plea," as opposed to taking your case to trial.  During your considerations you may have questions.  You should always take those considerations to your lawyer.  Your lawyer is going to be able to advise you far better than the internet.  That being said:

What is the difference between a No-Contest plea and a guilty plea?

A guilty plea is an admission of guilt.  You are admitting that you have broken the law and that may have consequences that far outreach simple criminal penalties. In most jurisdictions a plea of guilt is an admission that can be used against you in the criminal case but also in any accompanying civil case.

A no-contest plea is slightly different.  In a no-contest plea you are not admitting that you have done something wrong.  You are just admitting that a prosecutor could present evidence to a fact-finder and that fact finder could hear the evidence in your case and make a finding that you have committed a crime.  Pleaing no-contest is basically like, "throwing in the towel." 

Well what's the difference then?  Why would a person plea guilty vs. plea no-contest?

The real difference is that a guilty plea is an admission for civil purposes and a no-contest plea is not.  In other words, if you plea guilty and the alleged victim tries to sue you for money damages they are going to be able to stand up in civil court and say, "Did you admit that you did xxx that caused me harm when you were charged criminally?" and then prove it up if you lie by bringing in the transcript of your criminal case plea hearing.  If you plea no-contest they wouldn't be able to do that.  They would still have to prove that you harmed them and wouldn't be able to use your plea against you.


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