Does a Nolo Contendere Plea by a Defendant Lead to His Conviction ?
In Garron v. State, 528 So. 2d 353, 360 (Fla. 1988), the court held that a nolo contendere plea, with adjudication withheld, was not a "conviction" and, therefore, could not be considered as an aggravating circumstance in a capital sentencing proceeding.
The court emphasized that a nolo contendere plea does not entail an admission of guilt:
A defendant who enters a plea of nolo contendere does not plead guilty, and the nolo contendere plea "does not function as . . . a guilty plea." Id. at 360.
Similarly, in Raydo v. State, 696 So. 2d 1225 (Fla. 1st DCA 1997), approved in part and quashed in part, 713 So. 2d 996 (Fla. 1998), the First District held that for purposes of impeaching a witness with a prior conviction, a plea of nolo contendere without an adjudication of guilt did not constitute a conviction because the witness "had neither pleaded guilty to nor been found guilty by a jury of" the charge. Id. at 1226.