Should I consider pleading nolo contendere to a DUI charge?

On Behalf of | Aug 9, 2022 | Criminal Law

Being arrested for driving under the influence in Georgia can cause myriad problems in a person’s life. Not only are they facing the possibility that they will be incarcerated, fined and lose their driving privileges, but it is impactful in more subtle ways. It stokes a negative perception in the community. This can harm career prospects, school opportunities and other goals. The family will be embarrassed and need to deal with the unexpected challenges that accompany a DUI.

There are options when crafting a defense. In some cases, the person could have a viable chance to get acquitted if they decide to go to trial. In others, it might be wiser to try and find another way to clear the case, accept certain consequences and move forward. Toward that end, a nolo contendere could be beneficial. Knowing when this is applicable and if it is a good idea generally requires professional advice.

What should I know about nolo contendere?

Nolo contendere means “no contest.” According to Georgia law, this is a way for a person charged with DUI to accept the charges. The penalties will be up to the judge in the case. There are fundamental requirements for a driver to be eligible to plead nolo contendere. The driver cannot have registered a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or higher within three hours of driving or controlling a vehicle. The option is not available for drivers younger than 21 under any circumstances.

DUI laws in Georgia should be known beforehand as they play a major role in attempting to use nolo contendere. It is a misdemeanor if it is a first or second conviction. Anything beyond that is a felony. If it is a first conviction and the person was not previously convicted or gave a plea of nolo contendere within 10 years, the judge can fine the driver between $300 and $1,000.

The judge can issue a sentence of 10 days to 12 months in jail if the driver’s BAC was 0.08%, but suspend the sentence except for 24 hours’ imprisonment. There can be an order to perform 40 hours of community service unless the BAC was less than 0.08% when it will be at least 20 hours. The driver must take part in a program for DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk. The penalties escalate for subsequent convictions.

Having advice on the available strategies can help with finding an effective path

Often, people who have been charged with DUI have never had any experience with being on the wrong side of the law. They have abided by the law their entire lives and but for this one incident, they have no cause to worry about being accused of or arrested for any legal violation. This exacerbates the fear they are likely to feel. It is important to remember there are viable solutions that can avoid the worst-case scenario such as jail, loss of driving privileges and the personal, financial and professional impact surrounding these allegations. Even though there are penalties associated with nolo contendere, it could show the judge that the driver is willing to address any lingering issues with alcohol or drugs and pay a debt to society. It may save time and money allowing the person to move on.

For an effective defense, it is wise to have local advice from those who are longtime residents of the area, know the terrain and can help with finding workable solutions. One might be considering a plea of nolo contendere. As stated above, the circumstances must be in place for it to be an option. However, it can be a beneficial strategy once people know the details and how it can help them. In some DUI cases, it is preferable to go to trial. That might be due to a lack of evidence, missteps on the part of law enforcement, the driver having a viable reason for appearing to be under the influence and more. To determine the path to take, having professional guidance can be useful.

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