Legal Term Tuesdays: “No Contest”

This is the first entry in BeenVerified’s legal term library designed to help you better understand public record information, criminal records and related terminology. The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. 

When faced with a criminal charge many people assume the defendant has just two options in responding with a plea: guilty or not guilty. You may have learned to assume this from watching episodes of Law & Order where the prosecutor offers the accused an easier ride if they admit their guilt, or conversely threaten to “throw the book at them” if they fight the charge with a plea of not guilty and take the case to a court trial. Guilty or Not Guilty, that’s all there is to decide, right?

Well, actually there is a third plea option in many cases: no contest.

A "No Contest" plea will still show up in a criminal record search
A “No Contest” plea will still show up in a criminal record search

According to Law.com‘s legal dictionary, no contest is a plea where the defendant states that he or she will not contest the criminal charge against them. While a judge will treat a plea of no contest (also known as nolo contendre) as the same as a plea of guilty, there are some important nuances to a no contest plea.

The first is that a no contest plea allows a defendant to avoid personally admitting guilt, which is often a strategy used by defendants worried that a civil suit could follow their criminal prosecution. A no contest plea cannot be used in civil court against a defendant as an admission of guilt in the same way a straight guilty plea could be (a notable exception is in Virginia state law). However, many states severely limit the use of no contest pleas or put a high burden on accepting such a plea.

Second, “no contest” pleas are often the result of a plea bargain. Think back to our Law & Order example at the opening of this post. Prosecutors will sometimes allow defendants to plea no contest in order to avoid a trial, which unlike on TV, most prosecutors prefer to avoid. In exchange for not contesting the charges against them, defendants often receive reduced charges, a lighter sentence and the ability of to avoid admitting guilt.

So while “no contest” may seem like a third and confusing plea option, you can think of it as a close cousin of a “guilty” plea when it comes to criminal law.

When it comes to public records, criminal record history will show up the same whether a defendant pleaded guilty or no contest to a crime, according to Nolo.com.

Notable “no contest” Pleas:

Lindsay Lohan , Movie Actress – Misdemeanor Theft (2015)

Spiro Agnew, Former Vice President – Federal Tax Evasion (1973)

Michael Irvin, Former NFL Player – Cocaine Possession (1996)

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#ShouldaBeenVerified: Romance Scams Cost Victims $14,000 Each in 2014

Women over 40 most vulnerable to the FBI’s top reported scam last year;

Who’s Watching Grandma?

We talk a lot about online dating scams here at BV and that’s no coincidence. As a company that started with the goal of building trust among different parties online, romance scams were one of a number of problems we wanted to help our customers avoid. Unfortunately, since we first covered this topic years ago, online dating and romance scams have only grown more successful as online dating as a whole has gained popularity.

Women over the age of 40 are most likely to fall into the arms of a romance scam artist.
Women over the age of 40 are most likely to fall into the arms of a romance scam artist.

Confirmation of this came recently from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 report noted that online romance scams were the leading drivers of Internet fraud in 2014, with victims being cheated out of a whopping total of over $800 million, or about $14,000 per victim on average.

NBC News pointed out that women over the age of 40 were by far the most likely demographic to be swindled out of their money while having their hearts broken shortly thereafter. Despite men making up a larger percentage of online fraud victims as a whole, 70% of all romance scam victims in 2014 were women over the age of 40.

The fact that older, single women are preyed upon disproportionately is understandable when one of the most common and successful romance scams involves con artists impersonating members of the military, often using the occupation as a convincing reason for not being able to meet their romantic interest and soon-to-be victim in person.

The report makes clear that younger people seem less susceptible to such romance scams online, and loneliness bred from old age and isolation in particular has always been a key ingredient for vulnerability to such scams.

So while you may be OK, when is the last time you checked in with your Grandma or Grandpa, Mom or Dad?

If you’re worried about whom they are chatting with online, then share the tips with her at the end of this article and take steps to help her verify the identities and locations of any new and unfamiliar online “friends.”

The success of this breed of online romance scams clearly shows its effectiveness at fooling a broad range of people across America. If you don’t think it can happen to someone you know and love, are you willing to bet $14,000 on it?

 

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Video Interview with BeenVerified’s CEO

On Growth, Hiring and Learning New Things.

Our CEO and fearless leader Josh Levy recent sat down with MeetAdvisors for a video interview covering a number of topics from BeenVerified’s vast range of customers, how he’s built the BeenVerified team and going from a serial tech entrepreneur in high school to the CEO of one of America’s fastest growing companies.

You can watch the full video here:

Below are some abbreviated excerpts taken from the interview:

On BeenVerified’s mission:

“We built BeenVerified to help people discover, understand and use public data…we started the company with the simple goal of providing more information about the people you interact with online.”

On BeenVerified’s customers:

“There are people who are looking up potential dates, moms who want to know who just moved into the neighborhood, all the way to people who are searching their own identities and want to know what data is out there about themselves.”

On learning:

“We’re learning every day. We’re always amazed at what we know today that we didn’t know two years ago. What I think is awesome is, ‘what am I going to know in a year or two that I don’t know today?’ That excites me.”

Advice to budding entrepreneurs:

“Two pieces of advice. One: don’t stop. You have to take that first step, you have to start…the other is don’t take no for an answer and always be inquisitive about why people are doing things and questioning your own process and practices.”

On hiring:

“We want people who are hungry and want to learn. Secondly, we want people who will do what they say they’ll do. We want to trust that if you say you’re going to do something, you’ll do it and it’s going to be great and we’ll keep moving.”

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How to Avoid Common Online Dating Scams

Over 40 million Americans have online dating profiles, and due to its popularity, online dating scams cause tens of millions of dollars in damages each year. In fact online romance scams have been referred to as “the most costly in existence” by international authorities.

One common online dating scam involves women targeted by con artists posing as a US Army sergeants. According to the official Armed Services newspaper Stars & Stripes, these types of scams are prevalent as they are so easy to set up. The scammer simply steals a photo of the member of the armed forces from their social media profiles to use on unsuspecting women.

We encourage you to read the full story at the link above on how this scam develops, but thought we would reiterate some of the key points for avoiding these type of romance scams, whether they come wrapped in camouflage or not.

Beware impostors pretending to be from the armed services or international businessmen on online dating sites. Photo credit: Stefano Corso
Beware impostors pretending to be from the armed services or international businessmen on online dating sites. Photo credit: Stefano Corso

Military-based romance scams are just one of a number of perennial scams that online daters face. Others involve “emergency” requests for immediate financial assistance or help in clearing customs to move a large amount of money from a foreign country into the US. Crucially, most online dating scams involve a request for money before having met the romance interest in person.

Reminder – How to avoid an online dating scam:

1. When online dating, insist on meeting in person early on before you send too many messages and form a “virtual attachment.” Your first date should always be in a public place and if you have a funny feeling, consider running a background check on your potential date beforehand.

2. Be extra careful if your suitor has reason to be out of the country to avoid a first meeting. International business people and members of the armed services make easy cover stories for scam artists.

3. Never send money early on in a relationship and especially before having met the person. Treat any requests for money as a clear red flag for a scam.

4. If your intuition tells you something is off, check the person out by running a background check. A comprehensive background check service such as BeenVerified will give you information about addresses, aliases, criminal incidents and known associates. All you need is a full name and approximate location to run a search.

As the article states, you can also search RomanceScam.com and RomanceScams.org to search for common profile photos used by con artists.

While the tactics of scam artists are always changing, the above principles remain the same and we hope will help you avoid any trouble on your search for romance.

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