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Nolo Contendere

[Latin, I will not contest it.] A plea in a criminal case by which the defendant answers the charges made in the indictment by declining to dispute or admit the fact of his or her guilt.

The defendant who pleads nolo contendere submits for a udgment fixing a fine or sentence the same as if he or she had pleaded guilty. The difference is that a plea of nolo contendere cannot later be used to prove wrongdoing in a civil suit for monetary damages, but a plea of guilty can. Nolo contendere is especially popular in antitrust actions, such as price-fixing cases, where it is very likely that civil actions for treble damages will be started after the defendant has been successfully prosecuted.

A plea of nolo contendere may be entered only with the permission of the court, and the court should accept it only after weighing its effect on the parties, the public, and the administration of justice.

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