Previously, we discussed Alford pleas and since then I have been asked several times about no contest pleas. So today, let’s take a look at a no contest plea and how they are treated specifically in the North Carolina State Court system.
First, let’s take a step back and look at what a guilty plea actually is. When you plead guilty, you (1) admit to committing the crime, (2) admit that you have no defenses to your actions, (3) give up your right to contest the charges in a trial and (4) allow the court to punish you.
No contest pleas (you may also hear them called a plea of nolo contendere, which is just the latin term for the same thing) are often used for avoiding civil liability for pleading guilty to a crime. Pleading no contest means you do not admit to committing a crime but are allowing the court to go ahead and punish you. Sometimes, a no contest plea results in a less harsh sentence than a guilty plea might otherwise entail.
The real benefit of a no contest plea in North Carolina has to do with civil liability for crimes, as a no contest plea isn’t treated as an admission in a later civil proceeding. For example, if you are charged with vehicular manslaughter in North Carolina and are allowed to enter a plea of no contest, your plea cannot later be used by a Plaintiff seeking money from you in a wrongful death lawsuit as an admission of liability
This may sound like a great way to handle your plea, but there is one major problem with pleading no contest in North Carolina. By statute, both the prosecutor and the judge must agree that you can plead no contest. Often, one or both will not agree to allow you to do so. From a criminal perspective, a no contest plea carries all the same consequences as a guilty plea, much like the Alford Plea we previously discussed.
As always, please contact us with any questions you may have. Our experienced attorneys are always willing to meet with you for a free consultation about your criminal charge.