Many of us have heard the phrase “no contest,” which means “I do not wish to contend,” on television or perhaps during a trip to the Pensacola courthouse, but what exactly does that mean, and what is the distinction between a plea of no contest and a plea of guilty in Florida?

Sometimes there is no difference, and in other cases, there is a considerable difference. 

When someone enters a guilty plea, they are acknowledging the truth and any resulting legal repercussions. But by pleading no contest, a defendant acknowledges that there are facts the prosecution can show to support a conviction, not that they are guilty. An individual who enters a plea of no contest is specifically neither admitting nor denying their guilt. Instead, they are acknowledging that taking the plea is in their best interests. Consequences of punishment can be identical, and they frequently are.

A “No Contest Plea’s” Advantage

In Florida, pleading “no contest” stops the plea from being used against the individual in a later civil or criminal case. 

A person who enters a “guilty” plea is acknowledging they committed the alleged crime, and that admission may be used against them in subsequent legal proceedings.

An Example of the Benefits of a No Contest Offer

The victim of a DUI arrest that results in personal harm may file a civil lawsuit against the driver for damages.

The fact that the driver acknowledged guilt in his or her DUI case in the civil suit might be used as evidence if the driver enters a guilty plea to the criminal DUI charge because, by doing so, the person is admitting the facts and their own guilt. But if the driver enters a plea of no contest, there is no acknowledgment of guilt, and the injured party’s lawyer cannot use that as an admission in the civil damages lawsuit. A civil jury or judge could have been informed that the driver confessed to drinking too much alcohol at the time of the collision if they had entered a guilty plea. They cannot be informed of that if they plead no contest.

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