Should I Plead Nolo Contendere to DUI Charges?
Nolo Contendere is Latin for “I do not contest.” Often abbreviated as “nolo,” entering a plea of nolo contendere in a criminal trial means that you do not admit your guilt, but recognize that the prosecution has enough evidence to prove your guilt. Although there are few benefits to pleading nolo, many people charged with DUI do just that.
As a result of pleading nolo to your DUI charges, you will usually receive the same punishment as if you were found guilty, which means fines, possible jail time, a suspended license, and the obligation to attend substance abuse programs. The only difference is that you are not officially admitting guilt, and your criminal record will reflect that you did not contest the charges—instead of stating that you were guilty of the charges.
Does Pleading Nolo Contendere to DUI Charges Make Sense?
The only time a defendant should plead nolo to DUI charges is if the prosecution’s evidence is so strong that defending the case would not only be hopeless, it would be a waste of the defendant’s time and money. But most people do not have the legal expertise to determine whether their DUI case is hopeless or not. For that reason, you should consult with a reputable criminal defense attorney before considering a nolo plea.
Just because prosecutors have evidence against you does not mean that they can use necessarily use it at trial. All evidence used in criminal trials must meet the standards of the rules of evidence, and many DUI defendants are surprised to learn how willing some prosecutors are to bend these rules. A skilled attorney can keep this from happening.
Similarly, a lawyer can file a motion to suppress a prosecutor’s evidence that was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights to due process and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. For example, the police must have a reasonable suspicion to pull you over. They must also have probable cause to give you a breathalyzer test or to search your car. And they must administer field sobriety, blood, and urine tests by the book.
Are There Any Benefits to Pleading Nolo?
The only benefit from pleading nolo contendere to a DUI charge is that you are not making an admission of guilt. Your criminal record will not show that you are guilty of DUI—it will just show that you pleaded no contest. That being said, it is likely that people doing background checks will give an uncontested DUI the same weight as a guilty verdict.
The real difference comes in situations where your drunk driving has caused injury to others. The victims would probably try to sue you in civil court, and if they could include evidence of your DUI conviction into their case, they would stand a good chance at winning. But since a nolo plea is not an admission of guilt, the injured parties will not be able to use your criminal record as evidence of your civil liability.
Every legal situation and every person is different. Depending on your charges and the circumstances in which your alleged offense occurred, different legal strategies may be available to you, If you are facing DUI charges and want a free and confidential consultation of your case, you can call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146.