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What happens if I plead ‘No Contest’ to my DUI charge? Should I?

DUI Arrest pleading no contest

Pleading ‘No Contest’ to your DUI charge?

California is one of the few states that allows those accused of DUI to plead Nolo Contendere, or “no contest” in addition to guilty and not guilty. Because the plea is not heard often, most people are unsure about what it means.

What is a “no contest” plea?

When you plead “no contest”, you are telling the court that you do not wish to argue your case. A plea of “no contest” will usually be entered if your DUI attorney has managed to work out a plea bargain, which can result in a reduced sentence. While you are technically not admitting guilt, California courts will judge you as though you have pleaded guilty, and you will be criminally convicted.

Although it is legal to plead “no contest” in California, there are a few steps that must first be taken by the judge:

The judge must accept the plea (some judges will refuse to accept “no contest” pleas).

  1. The judge must make sure that you recognize and understand that a plea of “no contest” will be treated as a guilty plea, and as such, you will be found guilty.
  2. The judge must confirm that you are entering your plea of your own will, without any coercion or misunderstanding.

What are the advantages, if any, to pleading “no contest”?

Although a plea of “no contest” will result in a criminal conviction for the accused, there are advantages to the plea in misdemeanor cases (i.e. most DUIs). Take the following example:

After a few drinks, you are driving down the highway above the posted speed limit, when you hit another car. The other driver is injured as a result of the accident. You are charged with a misdemeanor DUI Causing Injury, but your attorney manages to negotiate a plea bargain to your satisfaction, and you plead “no contest”.

In the meantime, the family of the injured driver begins a civil suit against you for damages. Thanks to your plea of “no contest”, you will be able to retain your right to trial in the civil case. If you had pleaded guilty, that would have satisfied the plaintiff’s burden of proof, and you would be automatically found liable in the civil case against you.

A plea of “no contest” will absolve you of any civil liability in your misdemeanor case, which can be very advantageous. However, keep in mind that in many DUI cases, you will be forced to pay restitution to the victim if convicted, even if no civil suit is filed. The restitution amount can be challenged before the judge in a separate restitution hearing.

Should I plead “no contest” to my DUI charge?

The importance of retaining your rights and being represented by an Orange County DUI attorney in a civil case cannot be understated. The punitive damages that can be awarded to the plaintiff in an injury or wrongful death case can be immense, since they must replace or supplement the financial support of the severely injured or killed individual. In such a situation, you want to be able to defend yourself, which a plea of “no contest” will allow. If your DUI attorney suggests pleading “no contest”, you can be certain it will be a better choice than pleading guilty.

Orange County DUI Defense

DUI Attorney Chad Maddox is a sole practitioner, and he personally handles every case that comes into the office. Mr. Maddox has proven himself to be one of the best DUI attorneys in California and has earned the respect and referrals of his peers, by achieving countless DUI & DMV victories. Contact the Law Offices of Chad Maddox today and receive a free consultation.

Important: This advice pertains to DUIs ONLY. “No contest” only absolves your civil liabilities in infraction and misdemeanor convictions; such a plea is the exact equivalent of a guilty plea in any other case.