What Is a No Contest Plea?
If you are arrested for a DUI in California, it is crucial to understand your rights as a defendant. Whether to plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty is an important decision that will shape your future in different ways.
Pleading guilty is simple; you are fully admitting that you drove under the influence and are now accepting the penalties for doing so. A guilty plea means that you can no longer fight your conviction in court, but it can come with benefits such as a plea bargain. A plea bargain allows you to get lesser penalties than you would if you go to trial and are found guilty by a jury. Generally, it is best not to plead guilty right away, as pleading guilty early on takes away your right to fight the charge.
So what, then, is a “no contest” plea? Functionally, pleading no contest to a DUI charge is the same as a guilty plea. It tells the court that you will not fight the DUI charges and are willing to be punished without contesting the charge at a trial. However, a no contest plea is different from a guilty plea because you are not admitting any wrongdoing. Still, the court will sentence you as if you are guilty of a DUI, meaning you can face fines, jail time or probation, and suspension of your license. Additionally, the conviction will still show as a DUI on your criminal record.
Benefits of Pleading No Contest
There are benefits to pleading no contest rather than guilty to a DUI. Most commonly, defendants will enter a no contest plea in order to avoid a misdemeanor DUI conviction being used as evidence in a subsequent civil lawsuit. If you injure someone while driving under the influence, the victim may sue you and seek compensation for your recklessness. As such, if you plead guilty to the DUI, the victim may use your guilty plea as evidence of responsibility, improving their chances of winning the personal injury lawsuit. On the other hand, if you plead no contest, the victim cannot use any admission of guilt against you in court.
Pleading no contest can also benefit you in other situations. For example, if you do not want to deal with the stress of going to trial or if you do not like the odds of you being acquitted in a trial, pleading no contest may be in your best interest. Additionally, pleading no contest may help to protect you or your family from information regarding your DUI becoming public record. Since court convictions are public record, anyone can search for and see the details of your case. When you plead no contest, you may elect to hide certain facts of your case from public record if those facts support the prosecution’s case against you. This could help to protect your future reputation.
Drawbacks of Pleading No Contest
However, a no contest plea does not make the conviction go away. You must still face the same penalties as if you pleaded guilty, and you lose the chance for a plea bargain or reduced sentencing. In addition, if your DUI charge is a felony, then an injured victim may still use your no contest plea as evidence against you in a civil lawsuit. If you are unsure whether to plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty for a DUI, your best course of action is to contact an experienced defense attorney to go over the options with you and how they apply to your specific case.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today
If you have been arrested for a DUI, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is the best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients in DUI cases, and we have the skills and resources to secure the best outcome for you.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you. Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.