No Contest Plea Definition

published by Andrew Flusche on January 1, 2008


At your traffic court trial, the judge will announce your charge and ask for your plea. You basically have three options: guilty, not guilty, or no contest. The guilty and not guilty pleas are self-explanatory, but clients sometimes ask me what “no contest” means.

A “no contest” plea (which comes from the Latin phrase “nolo contendere”) is a middle ground between guilty and not guilty. It means that you aren’t admitting that you committed the crime or infraction, but you also aren’t going to contest the Commonwealth’s evidence against you. If you enter a no contest plea, you are forfeiting your right to mount a defense.

You might want to consider a no contest plea in a case where you know the Commonwealth of Virginia has strong evidence against you and you don’t have a defense. If you don’t have a defense, it can make sense to not contest the charge and ask for leniency in sentencing.

However, you shouldn’t enter a plea without first talking with a traffic lawyer. You might have a defense that you aren’t aware of.

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