The plea of nolo contendere, or “no contest,” in a criminal proceeding means you do not accept nor deny responsibility for the charges but you agree to accept the punishment.1 When you are arrested and charged with a DUI, you are charged with a crime, so you do have this option. Very few states do not actually allow you to plead no contest in a DUI context for policy reasons.

When is it appropriate to use a no contest plea in a DUI case?

Whether or not to plead innocent or guilty is your decision. Pleading “no contest” is basically the same thing as pleading guilty, or at least it has the same results (you accept the punishment).2 The benefit of pleading “no contest” and the reason it differs from pleading “guilty” is that it cannot be used against you later in a civil lawsuit that arises from the same criminal activity.3 However, pleading “no contest” could mean that you still admit to the facts of the case in another civil proceeding. Pleading “no contest” in a DUI case can be advantageous if there is no way of winning the case.4

However, you have to be given permission or consent from the court to plead “no contest,” as there is not an inherent right to plead it.5 Once you are given permission, you must speak to the judge in person and in open court so the court can make sure your plea is knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.6 This is true also for most traffic convictions. You generally have an opportunity to enter your initial plea after your arraignment.7 You may usually change your plea to “no contest” at a later time as well.8 However, if you plead guilty after your arraignment you will be convicted of the crime and it will be difficult for you to withdraw your guilty plea.9 Thus, it is best that you strongly consider the consequences of what you are doing when it comes to entering your plea.

In certain states you cannot plead “no contest” in a DUI case unless you meet certain criteria. For example, in Georgia you may only plead “no contest” if you are not under 21, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was not over 0.15 anytime within three hours after being in actual physical control of a moving vehicle from alcohol consumed before, and if the judge has reviewed your driving records on file with the Department of Driver services.10 A “no contest” plea in Georgia is also rarely accepted in a DUI case.11 Arizona does not have such strict laws concerning pleading “no contest” in a DUI case.

Contact our experienced DUI attorneys for more information about pleading Nolo Contendere in a DUI case.

1 LAW.CORNELL.EDU, (last visited Feb. 2, 2015).

2 No Contest Pleas (Nolo Contendere), CRIMINAL.LAWYERS.COM, (last visited Feb. 4, 2015).

3 Id.

4 Pleading Nolo To DWI Charge, D-W-I.ORG, (last visited Feb. 4, 2015).

5 No Contest Pleas (Nolo Contendere), supra note 2.

6 Id.

7 James Novak, How To Plea In Criminal Court, ARIZONACRIMINALDEFENSELAWYER.COM, (last visited Feb. 4, 2015).

8 David Brown, Dealing With A DUI or DWI Charge, NOLO.COM, (last visited Feb. 4, 2015).

9 David Brown, Should You Plead Guilty To A DUI?, NOLO.COM, (last visited Feb. 4, 2015).

10 Can I Plead Nolo Contendere To My DUI Charge?, DUI-LAWYER.COM, (last visited Feb. 4, 2015).

11 Id.