The nolo contendere is the "no contest" plea. In WA State, an Alford plea is when the accused (defendant) does not admit that they committed the crime and maintains innocence, but admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty.
The judge must see there is some factual basis for the plea. Upon receiving an Alford plea from a defendant, the court may immediately find the accused guilty and impose sentence as if the defendant had otherwise been convicted of the crime. Therefore, a defendant's prior conviction via an Alford plea can be considered in future trials; and it will count as a "strike" if a three strikes law applies. In comparison, a nolo contendere plea is not an admission of guilt, and it cannot be introduced in future trials as evidence of incorrigibility. The judge does not have to accept a plea of nolo contendere, except on occassion in certain nonviolent cases.
In Washington State, the "no lo contendre" or "no contest" plea is not recognized. Instead, we have what is referred to as an "Alford" or "Newton" plea, which allows the Court to refer to portions of the pleadings called a "Certification of Probable Cause" or to selected portions of police reports to determine whether there is a basis in fact to accept your plea of guilty without an actual admission of guilt on your part. Although not actual admissions of guilt, Alford or Newton pleas carry the exact same legal consequences(with a few minor exceptions) as a "straight plea", where you admit that you did, in fact, commit the crime you are pleading guilty to. Typical Alford plea language might be as follows:
"Without admitting guilty and after having reviewed and discussed the police reports and pleadings with my attorney, I recognize that there is a substantial liklihood that I would be convicted if my case proceeds to trial. I therefore enter this plea to take advantage of the plea offer made to me by the Prosecution, and for no other reason. I agree that the Court may review the Certification of Probable Cause to determine a factual basis for my plea."
It is basically the Latin Term for NO CONTEST which is treated the same way in terms of record and punishment in most places.
The advantage of a no contest plea in California is that it cannot be used against you in a civil suit. In the criminal action it is treated as a guilty plea but should you later be sued for damages arising out of the incident it has no effect.