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There are situations where a defendant can choose to enter a plea of nolo contendere rather than declaring him or herself to be guilty of a criminal charge. While the defendant will still receive a sentence from the court, the case, because of the plea, cannot be used in any other cause of action. The plea must first be approved for use by a judge. An example of this would be the following sample case.

House Robber Meets Home Owner While Escaping

Dillon Weeds (not his real name) had been watching Jane Pierce’s (not her real name) home for some time. He had studied her schedule for leaving home and seeing when she returned from work every day. On a Tuesday, after Jane had left home for work, Dillion slithered around to the back of the house where neighbors could not see him and broke through the back door to enter the house.

While the defendant will still receive a sentence from the court, the case, because of the plea, cannot be used in any other cause of action

When It Goes Wrong

Dillon went upstairs, rifled through drawers and closets, selecting small valuables to take with him. Suddenly, he heard a car door slam shut at the front of the house and he knew that it was probably Jane returning for something she forgot. Just his luck.

As he raced down the stairs, he tripped and fell to the bottom, hitting a large valuable Ming vase sitting on the floor, worth thousands of dollars. It shattered into a million pieces, spread out across the hardwood floor.

Dillon gathered himself up and started heading for the back door. Jane, entering through the front door, began screaming loudly, especially when she saw the broken vase. She saw Dillon leaving through the back door and began to chase him but was not fast enough to catch up to him.

Looking behind him several times at Jane as she tried to catch him, Dillion ran down the street half-way, then cut across a resident’s yard, and was soon gone. Jane was now left with a very expensive vase in pieces and the loss of several valuable pieces of jewelry, all of which was documented when the police documented the crime scene.

Jane later picked Dillon out of a line-up, having seen his face when he turned to look at her while running away. But she was far enough away to not be sure if he was the one. However, Dillon made a mistake when he pawned one of her pieces of jewelry at a pawn shop near his home. The store clerk remembered that it was Dillon when shown his picture, but said Dillon used another name to sell the piece. The address and phone number in the log were also bogus.

The Arrest and Charge

Dillon was found, picked up, and charged by the police for first-degree robbery of an inhabited structure, even though it was empty when he broke in. It was not empty when he left. Dillon, on the advice of his criminal defense attorney, chose to declare nolo contendere because he did not want to admit guilt or face getting sued for a lot of money because of the jewelry and the broken vase.

Dillon was sentenced on a felony first-degree robbery to two years in a state jail. Jane would not be able to sue him for recovery of her loss of the Ming vase and the jewelry not recovered.

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Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong

Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm, the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, in June 2007. Prior to that, he was employed as the senior associate attorney for a large criminal defense firm in San Diego for nine years, eventually being placed in charge of that firm’s branch office in downtown San Diego. At one point, he was managing six attorneys at that firm, as well as several support staff and law clerks. In 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys. In 2017, he was also selected for the Super Lawyers Top 50 in San Diego list. In 2014, he was selected as a Top Attorney by Los Angeles Magazine. Additionally, Mr. Armstrong was also named as a Top Attorney by the San Diego Business Journal in 2014.

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