What is the Difference Between Pleading Guilty and No Contest in Texas?

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal


(972) 369-0577

Under Texas law — pleading “no contest” (or sometimes called “nolo contendere”) feels better than pleading guilty and that is about it.

Many people think that if they plead “no contest” that they’re not being convicted or being placed on deferred and that nothing will go on their criminal record.  This is not true and the wording of the plea is nothing more than a legal mechanism which alleviates the state from their burden of proof beyond all reasonable doubt.  If the judge accepts a plea of guilty, or no contest — they are legally empowered to find you guilty (or place you on deferred) with no additional evidence.

The lone narrow difference is that if you plead “no contest” to an offense in Texas, and if there is a civil case where the criminal case is of significance, a “no contest” plea might not be admissible in that proceeding.

Due to the fact civil cases have even lower burdens of proof than criminal cases and usually settle before trial anyway, “no contest” pleas are somewhat irrelevant to a lawyer’s analysis of your criminal case.

All-in-all the biggest issue with “no contest” pleas is that it can leave a false sense as to the outcome of the case.  The only way to erase a criminal record in Texas is through an expunction.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.  For legal advice you should consult an attorney.

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