Most people should be aware that, when you are charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or another criminal offense, you have the option to plead “not guilty” or “guilty.” Though a defendant may originally enter a plea of not guilty, he or she may always change their minds during the criminal justice process and change their plea to guilty, usually in order to benefit from a plea bargain. However, most individuals who are not familiar with the legal system may not realize that there is a third option for entering a plea in Colorado–the “no contest” plea.
A no contest plea may also be referred to as a “plea of nolo contendere” or an “Alford plea,” based on the 1970 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case North Carolina v. Alford. When you enter a no contest plea, it will have the same practical effect as a guilty plea, however you do not have to admit guilt in order to enter this type of plea. In Colorado, the court must consent to a plea of this type.
A defendant who enters a no contest plea generally admits that the prosecutor has sufficient evidence against them to convince a jury or judge that they committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. However, a defendant pleading no contest may do so while simultaneously maintaining their innocence.
Effects of a No Contest Plea
A no contest plea generally has the same effect as a guilty plea. Following this type of plea, a judge will sentence you and there will be a final disposition. In short, your case will be over. A defendant pleading no contest can usually benefit from plea bargaining or plea deals offered by the prosecutor in return for entering a plea.
Additionally, in many cases, a no contest plea may not be used as per se evidence that you committed the offense in any subsequent civil cases. For example, if you were charged with DUI following an accident that resulted in injuries, you may end up facing a personal injury lawsuit by the injured victims in civil court. A no contest plea is typically not permissible to use as evidence to automatically establish that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A no contest plea will still result in a conviction on your criminal record and will be used as a prior offense if you are charged with another DUI at a later date.
How a Denver DUI Defense Attorney Can Help You
Facing any type of criminal charges is always stressful and you may not know whether you should plead guilty, plead no contest, or take your case all the way to trial. An experienced attorney can help advise you of the best option for you in your case and can negotiate with prosecutors to get you the best plea bargain possible should you choose to plead. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI, you should call an experienced attorney at the Denver office of the Tiftickjian Law Firm for help as soon as possible.