Should You Plead No Contest to a California DUI Charge?

March 26, 2020

There are advantages and disadvantages to this type of plea.

Should You Plead No Contest to a California DUI Charge?

Under California law, driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs is a criminal offense. Punishment for this crime depends on the severity of the offense, as well as whether you have a history of alcohol-related driving convictions within the past 10 years (the “look back” period). If you are convicted of a California DUI — through trial or via a plea deal — you may be sentenced to jail, community service, probation, mandatory drug or alcohol education classes, and be required to pay heft fines and fees. In addition, you will lose your driver’s license for a period of time.

According to a Los Angeles County DUI attorney, one option for resolving DUI charges is through a “no contest” plea. Also referred to as a “nolo contendere” plea, it essentially means that you do not want to contend or contest the charges. When you plead no contest, you are not admitting that you were guilty of the charge. Instead, it is a statement that you are not going to fight the charges.

If you plead no contest to a California DUI charge, you will not have a jury trial. Instead, your case will go directly to sentencing. In this way, it is similar to a guilty plea — the main difference being that you are not admitting guilt. However, the court will sentence you as if you had been convicted at trial or if you had pled guilty. This means that you may be subject to any or all of the consequences listed above, including a fine, jail time or probation, and a license suspension.

As a Los Angeles County DUI attorney can explain, if you plead no contest, you will still have a criminal conviction on your record. You will also face all of the potential penalties associated with having a DUI conviction, such as potentially losing a professional license or certification or even being fired from your job if driving is part of your work.

However, there are a number of reasons why you may want to plead no contest to a California DUI charge. One of the most important reasons is to avoid the possibility that a conviction or a guilty plea would be used against you in a later civil lawsuit. This comes into play if your DUI caused injuries. The victims of your accident may file a lawsuit against you to recover for damages, often waiting until the criminal case is over to do so. In this way, a guilty plea or a finding of guilt by the jury can be used against you. If you plead no contest, then your criminal charge cannot be used against you — as long as the charge was a misdemeanor. Felony DUI charges can be used against you in a civil lawsuit, even if you plead not guilty.

Other reasons to plead no contest include avoiding the stress and uncertainty of a trial, because you are not certain that you would win at trial, and to keep the details of your DUI from becoming a matter of public record. A Los Angeles County DUI attorney can help you determine if pleading no contest makes sense based on the facts of your case.

At the Chambers Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping people who have been charged with DUIs. We aggressively defend your rights, taking cases to trial when necessary — or advising you on the pros and cons of taking a plea deal. To learn more or to schedule a free case evaluation, contact us at 855-397-0210 or

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