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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What’s hiding in your background check?

 

A common use of BeenVerified.com’s background check service is the self-check. Sometimes concerned, but often just curious people will “BeenVerify” themselves to know what’s out there. Just as your doctor recommends self-examinations to monitor your physical health, so should you monitor and be aware of your online reputation. Simply put, you should know what’s in your public record.

SLC Minilypse-City Library

We’ll take a closer look at some of the following items that may show up in your own public record in future blog posts and what, if any, response might be appropriate. Here are some things you might find in your search:

1. Current and Historical Addresses  BeenVerified.com is a popular destination for those looking to update their address books. Make sure your current residence is accurately listed in case old friends want to get back in touch. If you’re a homeowner, you may want to ensure your home’s vital statistics are listed accurately to ensure the correct value.

2. Criminal Records  We’ve covered how to interpret and understand criminal records in detail in the past. If you have a criminal record, there are ways to present yourself in the best possible light as we will examine in a future post. And remember, employers are barred from using BeenVerified to screen for employment or tenancy by the Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA).

3. Bankruptcies, tax liens and civil judgments All three of these events can appear in your public record. It’s important these events are updated to reflect current realities of your situation. For example, an unpaid tax lien can appear on your public record for ten years after the fact and affect credit decisions for years later. If there is an inaccuracy in your public record, then you should dispute it and get it corrected.

4. Social media accounts  You may not be overly concerned if your primary social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter show up as part of your public record, as they are usually intentionally left public. But what about that old MySpace or LiveJournal account? You may decide after running a self-check that it’s time to do a social media account clean up. We’ll go into detail on some of the best ways to do that in a future post.

5. Incomplete Information  Public records do not come from one data source but disparate sources across the country from different states and municipalities. If you can’t find something you’re looking for, it may because it’s not yet been digitised. In that case, you may be interested in learning more about BeenVerified’s court runner service.

Don’t stay curious–run a background check on yourself  now with BeenVerified.com and take action if needed.

If you’ve run a check on yourself and have questions let us know in the comments section below.

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Will A Criminal Record Lock Up Your Dating Life?

 

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A criminal record doesn’t have to mean doom for your love life. Photo credit: Jason Clapp

All of us have skeletons in the closet, but some skeletons may appear to be scarier than others, especially in a dating context.

With people from all walks of life now able to run background checks affordably and instantly, you may feel like your past is obscuring your present and future prospects.  After all, if you have a criminal record, you are already aware of how it can interfere with employment opportunities, educational opportunities, and even basic necessities such as housing.

However, until relatively recently, beyond official purposes, criminal records were sufficiently private that a person with an incident in his or her past would have the chance to get to know someone before having to mention a criminal history.  Now however, it is entirely possible and even likely that someone could learn about your criminal history before you even get an opportunity to make a first impression.

So, how do you approach dating if you have a criminal incident on your record?

First, don’t lie.  While you may not have to share your entire criminal history with someone by the end of the first date, many potential partners will be more upset if you conceal the truth than they would have been about learning about the underlying criminal offense. Furthermore, if a criminal record is a deal-breaker for a potential partner, you not only waste their time, but yours, too, if you lie about it.

Second, take accountability for past mistakes. For many potential partners, it will not be enough for you to be honest about the details of your conviction, but also about the underlying details for the crime.  While you have every right to say you would like to wait to discuss them, the reality is that if a relationship progresses, you will need to discuss it at some point in time.  When you do describe the event, you will seem like you are trying to dodge responsibility if you blame others for what you did.

Third, ask yourself if you have you taken the steps needed to improve or change yourself since the criminal incident(s).  If the conviction involved drugs or alcohol, have you completed a rehabilitation program and are you currently sober?  If you were convicted with a group of people, have you changed associates?  If the conviction was for a violent crime, have you sought help to deal with any anger management issues or other problems with violence that you may have?

It is important to articulate the steps you have taken to put yourself in a different place than you were at when the criminal record was created. Many potential partners are not nearly as concerned about what is in your past as they are about what you are likely to be like in your future.

Therefore, any steps you have taken to help improve your chances of avoiding the same mistakes you have made in the past can be critical in keeping a new love interest onboard.

Are you unsure of what will show up on your background check? You can search instantly with BeenVerified to find out.

 

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3 People Who Overcame Criminal Records And Dominated

 

Last week we noted that one of the most popular search subjects for BeenVerified’s background check is when people search for themselves. One of the primary motivations for this is when people are curious about whether or not incidents on their record will show up when other people search them.

Bill Gates ran into trouble early in life and went on to dominate.
Bill Gates ran into trouble early in life and went on to dominate.

Whether or not criminal activity shows up in a background check could have a major impact on your future prospects—but it doesn’t have to confine you to a life in the shadows, either.

With that in mind, we searched news archives for well-known figures with criminal records who went on to overcome any stigma associated with their past actions. The celebrities we found not only overcame their past digressions but went on to dominate in their personal and professional lives.

All three stories below show that a criminal record does not automatically mean a life sentence of mediocrity. So if you search for yourself and that unsavory item is still on your background check, perhaps you can find inspiration from one of the three famous figures below.

  1. Bill Gates 

    One of the richest men in the world, despite a criminal record. Photo credit: Domain Barnyard
    One of the richest men in the world, despite a criminal record. Photo credit: Domain Barnyard

The founder of Microsoft and one of the richest men in the world, Bill Gates has never enjoyed playing by the rules. This allegedly also includes traffic rules, as he was arrested multiple times for traffic violations in the 1970s.

Despite having a criminal record, Gates went on to run the most powerful company in the world. His net worth is currently estimated at $81.3 billion and he just recently topped the Forbes 400 list.

Consider Bill’s example if you feel your criminal record is holding you back from a successful career by investigating starting your own enterprise where you’ll only have to answer to yourself.

  1. George W. Bush 

    Former President Bush had his own run-ins with the law.
    Former President Bush had his own run-ins with the law.

Despite what you may think about his policies, the man with the distinction of being the first president with a criminal record deserves credit for turning his life around. Former President Bush was arrested as many as three times in what by many accounts was a rambunctious early adulthood. His most serious incident was when he was arrested for DUI at the age of 30 in Maine.

Unfortunately for Bush, this last revelation was made public just days before the 2000 Presidential election. It was not enough to sway the election against him, and the revelations may have been dampened by the fact that he gave up alcohol completely at the age of 40.

If substances are at the root of past mistakes, come clean and seek professional help to get back on the right track, if needed.

  1. Mark Wahlberg 

    Mark overcame a troubled childhood to thrive. Photo credit: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
    Mark overcame a troubled childhood to thrive. Photo credit: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Before launching a successful music, modeling and acting career, Mark Wahlberg was constantly in trouble with Boston police as a young man. If you’ve seen the movie The Departed, you’ll have an idea of what his environment was like growing up. His most serious incident involved a fight where another man lost an eye and he was sentenced to two years in prison for aggravated assault.

After the incident, realizing he was on a slippery slope to a career of crime, Mark freed himself from the gang he was involved with and began to take positive steps towards building a life with positive influences.

Are bad influences in your life leading you to negative incidents? Like Mark, break free of “friends” who lead you down the wrong path before it’s too late.

If you’re concerned  about your past run a background check with BeenVerified today.

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