My understanding is that:

  • A "guilty" plea means the defendant admits that they have performed the action(s) in question and admits wrongdoing (hence "guilty"); while
  • A "not guilty" plea means the defendant not only denies wrongdoing, but denies having performed the action(s) in question.

What would be the name of a plea where the defendant admits to having performed the action(s) in question, but denies any wrongdoing? I thought this was nolo contendere, but turns out that means something completely different.

1 Answer 1


A plea consenting to entry of a criminal judgment, in general, without admitting that one is actually guilty of the crime, is called a no contest plea or a nolo contendere plea. Among lawyers it is often called an Alford plea, although in West Virginia it is called a Kennedy plea (in both cases named after court cases related to that kind of plea).

A plea where a defendant admits to having performed the actions in question but denies any wrong doing is a sub-set of this type of plea.

When a no contest plea is made reserving the right to appeal whether a crime has been committed if the admitted facts are true, this subtype of no contest plea is sometimes called a conditional plea. If the defendant prevails on appeal, the no contest plea in a conditional plea is withdrawn. See also here.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.