In the aftermath of a DUI arrest, navigating the legal system can feel overwhelming and daunting. Among the crucial decisions you face is how to plead or respond to the charges against you.
Most defendants may plead guilty, not guilty or no contest to DUI charges. Many opt to plead no contest, which allows you to avoid admitting guilt, but it is not as straightforward a solution as you may believe it to be.
What does no contest mean?
Also known as a nolo contendere plea, no contest can resolve your case without accepting guilt or going to trial. It means you are not disputing the charge but also not admitting you violated any laws.
Does it reduce the possible consequences?
Not typically. A no-contest plea means you are accepting the consequences of a DUI conviction. In California, the penalties may include:
- Thousands in fines
- Mandatory jail time
- Mandatory alcohol education
- Ignition interlock device (IID) installation
- Loss of driving privileges
In other words, it may not play much of a role in how the court penalizes you for drunk driving.
What are you giving up?
A plea of no contest means the loss of several important constitutional protections. You give up your right:
- To a trial by jury
- To convey your account of the incident
- To present evidence in your defense
- To challenge evidence presented against you
You also lose the right to file your conviction unless there was a legal error in the plea process.
None of this means you should rule out a no-contest plea, as it may be advantageous in your specific circumstances. For example, it may allow you to avoid publicity or the stress of a prolonged journey through the legal system.
Instead of deciding to enter any plea out of hand, consider discussing your DUI case with someone who understands what is at stake.