By: William C. Head, Atlanta DUI Lawyer
In Latin, nolo contendere can be translated as “no contest.” In criminal cases, an alternative to a guilty plea may be a plea of nolo contendere. In simple terms, to define nolo contendere, think of it as an alternative to a “guilty” plea that can be more beneficial to the person entering a plea in a felony or misdemeanor case, especially in situations where a related civil case may be pending (e.g., car accident and a DUI arrest of the at fault driver).
Unless certain factors disqualify the case from being eligible (by statute or by prior use of a nolo plea) a nolo contendere plea is an assertion by a citizen accused of a crime that he or she does not desire to contest the truth of the criminal charge against him or her. Because it does put the conviction on a person’s record, the most common benefit is to avoid the “negative effects” of admitting GUILT “on the record.”
In civil litigation motor vehicle accident cases, the nolo plea prevents the injured party’s civil attorney from using the final plea (or a transcript of the plea colloquy) as an admission of guilt against the “at fault” driver at the civil litigation.
A secondary benefit is a job-related advantage in some types of employment, although the difference between a DUI nolo and a DUI guilty is mostly semantics. States like Georgia and North Carolina impose the exact same punishment, for either one of the pleas. Thus, the long-repealed historic benefit of a nolo contendere GA plea that allowed the driver to keep his or her Georgia driver’s license will have been gone for 20 years on July 1, 2017.
In the simplest terms, a nolo contendere plea is a NO CONTEST plea. Only applicable to criminal cases — felony or misdemeanor — the legal effect of a nolo Georgia plea is to avoid going to trial, and to allow the conviction of the criminal offense to be entered against the person. The accused does not have to engage in a plea “allocution” (admitting guilt on the record).
The nolo contendere Georgia conviction will show up on the person’s record, pursuant to current Georgia DUI laws. For other minor traffic offenses, like speeding, permit the nolo contendere GA plea to not be recorded on the driver’s license of the person who pleaded no contest.
Prior to 1997, state statutes in Georgia permitted a person entering a “nolo plea” to DUI to keep his or her plastic driver’s license on a first offense. This Georgia DUI law was removed under former Governor Zell Miller, and a nolocontendere Georgia plea, is now a very rare plea for a driving under the influence case in Georgia.
The 1997 change in DUI laws in Georgia was pushed by the federal government, through NHTSA and by MADD. Currently, by virtue of the changes in GA law, nolo contendere vs guilty to DUI offers little or no tangible benefit outside the civil arena, leaving many criminal defense attorneys in Georgia with no way to help a client by obtaining a nolo plea. Entire criminal law practices were built on this “easy-way-out” approach, but DUI law firms like ours never counted on any client pleading nolo. Read more about our DUI lawyers at the bottom of the page.
This modification of a Georgia DUI nolo contendere plea stems from a 1997 change in our DUI laws in GA. As can be delved below, this GA DUI law has all but erased any benefit to the no contest plea in Georgia:
Many legal terms are misspelled by both the public and people working within the legal system, but few have more common misspellings that nolo contendere. The most common error is “nolo contendre,” followed by “nolo contender.” Some people make the word nolo two words, as in “no lo contendere.”
Our DUI Lawyers do NOT want you to enter a nolo or a guilty plea!
It is very rare for our clients to plead nolo in a DUI case. Our DUI law firm is here to FIGHT for a reduction of charges or go to trial. Our Atlanta DUI lawyers almost NEVER advise a client to plead guilty or nolo contendere to drunk driving, due to the obvious long-term DUI penalties.
Our DUI lawyers want to build a solid defense. Our #1 objective is to get your DUI charge reduced, or the DUI dismissed entirely. Read more about us below. The Atlanta attorney has handled over used expert witnesses in DUI cases over 600 times. Call Mr. Head or his law partners, Larry Kohn or Cory Yager, for a FREE lawyer consultation at 404-567-5515.
Who is Bubba Head?
William C. “Bubba” Head is a criminal defense attorney Atlanta with 40 years of litigation experience. The Atlanta DUI attorney has authored or co-authored over a dozen books, and is Board Certified by the ABA in DUI Defense. The highly exclusive lawyer ratings service, Best Lawyers in America named have twice named Mr. Head as the best DUI lawyer in Atlanta, in 2012 and 2017.
America’s oldest attorney ratings service, Martindale-Hubbell, has had Mr. Head ranked a “av” preeminent (highest possible skill level) and preeminent (highest ethical rating) for over two decades. Plus, Super Lawyers has recognized the expertise of Atlanta lawyer William Head in every year of their existence, as an attorney ratings organization.
More than 20 years ago, DUI lawyer Bubba Head started the National College for DUI Defense, and launched national DUI lawyer training for field sobriety tests and breath alcohol testing. An expert on Georgia DUI laws, Mr. Head is nationally known for his willingness to share his extensive knowledge of DUI defense with other DUI attorneys. He has shared this information from the many DUI trials he has had. He has written or co-authored over a dozen drunk driving books, including the now-famous 1200-page, Georgia DUI Trial Practice Manual.
Call 41-year veteran Atlanta DUI attorney Bubba Head today and get honest answers to all your questions. Tell us everything that happened and everything you remember about your DUI arrest. The sooner you call us, the better chance we have to win your DUI case and get your charges reduced or dismissed.
Remember, you only have 30 DAYS to file a license suspension appeal or apply for an ignition interlock device, or your driver’s license will be suspended for up to one year! Talk to Bubba Head, Larry Kohn, or Cory Yager now. We are available 24 hours a day, weekends, and all major holidays. (404) 567-5515