In most criminal cases, you have the option to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges you are facing. However, there is sometimes a third option available to you where you can plead “no contest” to charges. For individuals facing charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, plea options include no contest as well as guilty and not guilty. If you are considering pleading no contest to DUI charges or any other criminal charges, then it is important you understand the potential consequences related to such a plea.
Understanding No Contest Pleas
A no contest plea is also referred to as a “nolo contendere” plea or an “Alford plea” after the case from which such pleas arose. Basically, these pleas are an admission that the prosecution has collected enough evidence to convince a judge and/or a jury that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, no contest pleas have the same ultimate effect as a guilty plea though they afford the defendant the option of not admitting guilt.
In many cases, a no contest plea cannot be used to prove guilt in subsequent court proceedings. This can be beneficial in situations where there are additional lawsuits related to a DUI charge, such as personal injury civil suits arising from injuries sustained in an accident related to a DUI. Lawyers in those cases may be barred from using a no contest plea to prove that the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. However, no contest pleas will still result in a criminal conviction on a defendant’s record and can still be used when calculating the number of lifetime DUI charges he or she receives for purposes of Colorado’s felony DUI statute.
Other Potential Drawbacks
Some judges do not like accepting “no contest” pleas, and the discretion of whether or not to accept such a plea lies with the individual judge. One reason many judges do not like these pleas is that they can be an indication that an individual does not want to take responsibility for the crime he or she is accused of committing. For individuals who deny their factual guilt, it may also become difficult to complete the requirements associated with probation. For instance, most individuals convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs will have to undergo mandatory classes and/or treatment programs related to substance abuse. This can be a difficult task for those who believe they are truly innocent of the crime.
Is a No Contest Plea Right for You?
Ultimately, the decision as to which plea you want to enter in a criminal case is up to you. Sometimes, the benefits of a no contest plea can outweigh the potential negatives related to this type of plea. A Colorado criminal defense attorney who has experience working with clients facing charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs can help you understand your options and work with you to decide which option may be the right one for you. Contact the criminal defense team at Tiftickjian Law Firm to schedule a consultation, where you can find out more about the charges you are facing, the potential consequences related to conviction on those charges, and what options might be available to you in your defense.
(image courtesy of Andrew Neel)