Nolo Contendere Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Nolo Contendere, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Nolo Contendere?

It’s a latin word which means” I do not wish to contest”. It refers to the plea by an individual in a criminal case where he does not wish to contest the charges on him/her, but at the same time would leave upto the judge to decide whether he/she is guilty. Such pleas are entered after seeking courts permission. This is done to either save the legal costs, or for some crime, which the individual actually did not know he/she was committing and wanted the judge to decide if its a crime at all.Sometimes, they know they have commited the crime, but by filing the plea, wants to say that they have not accepted the charge.

History and Meaning of Nolo Contendere

Nolo contendere is a legal term derived from Latin which means "I will not contest it." It is a plea entered by a defendant in a criminal case in which the defendant does not admit or dispute the charges but agrees to accept punishment. The use of nolo contendere has its origin in medieval English law where it was introduced as a means for defendants to avoid the harsh penalties associated with a criminal conviction such as forfeiture and mutilation.

Today, nolo contendere is used as an alternative to a guilty plea in criminal cases, and is generally entered as part of a plea bargain. A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a lesser charge or to a reduced sentence in exchange for the dismissal of other charges or a lighter sentence.

Examples of Nolo Contendere

  1. John was charged for driving under the influence of alcohol. He entered a nolo contendere plea, which meant he was not admitting guilt but was accepting punishment without contesting the charge.
  2. The company was charged with violating environmental regulations, and they entered a nolo contendere plea in exchange for a reduced penalty and avoiding a lengthy trial.
  3. Mary was accused of embezzlement at her workplace. She entered a nolo contendere plea to avoid the humiliation of a trial, although she maintained her innocence.

Legal Terms Similar to Nolo Contendere

  1. Guilty plea: A plea entered by the defendant admitting guilt to the charges filed against them.
  2. Not guilty plea: A plea entered by the defendant denying the charges filed against them.
  3. Alford plea: A plea entered by the defendant in criminal cases admitting that the evidence presented by the prosecution would likely result in a guilty verdict if taken to trial, but not admitting personal guilt.