Should I plead no contest to a DUI charge?
Entering the courtroom for the first time on your DUI charge can be intimidating and confusing. At your court appearance, you will be asked to enter an initial plea. Your DUI defense lawyer will go over with you what to say and when. Remember that your choice of a plea is important and will greatly influence the next steps after your initial court appearance. Below, our Phoenix, Arizona DUI attorneys discuss the three main types of initial pleas and what plea your attorney will likely advise you to enter.
The Three Types of Initial Pleas
At your arraignment, you will have the option of entering one of three different initial pleas. These pleas are not to be confused with a plea agreement in which you might plead guilty for a reduced sentence at a later date. Rather, your initial plea will indicate to the court whether you intend to contest the charges against you at this time. The three initial plea options are as follows:
- Not Guilty: The majority of all DUI defendants will plead not guilty at the arraignment. Often, the plea will be entered on your behalf by your criminal defense attorney. By entering a plea of not guilty, you are denying your guilt of the crime. In doing so, you are forcing the prosecution to carry their burden of proof in order to prove you are guilty of a DUI. The judge handling your arraignment will set your case for either a next hearing date or a trial upon entrance of your not guilty plea.
- Guilty: You additionally have the option of pleading guilty at your arraignment, though this is seldom advised. By pleading guilty, you are admitting that you have committed the charged DUI and you have no legal defense. You will therefore waive your right to a trial during which you could have challenged the charges against you. If you enter a plea of guilty to a DUI, the judge may immediately proceed with sentencing. Alternatively, a sentencing hearing can be scheduled for another time to allow you and the judge to research and prepare for sentencing.
- No Contest: No contest pleas are perhaps the least common, but could be entered under some circumstances. By entering a plea of no contest, you are not admitting guilt to the DUI offense, but you are stating that you will not challenge the charges. A no contest plea will have an outcome very similar to a guilty plea, though technically no guilt is admitted. Like a guilty plea, the judge can proceed with immediate sentencing or schedule a sentencing hearing at a future date.
Your choice of a plea will set the course for your entire criminal case. As such, your plea should only be entered after consultation with an experienced DUI defense lawyer.