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Is a Nolo Contendere Plea Available in All Georgia DUI Cases?

“Can I Plead No Contest to DUI in Georgia?”

Bubba Head DUI Lawyer

By: William C. Head, Criminal Defense Attorney Atlanta GA and ABA Board-Certified DUI Attorney

Nolo Contendere Plea Bubba Head

No YOU CANNOT, so do not expect your DUI attorney to seek a nolo contendere Georgia plea to a DUI. A nolo plea deal is sometimes called a “no contest DUI.” In terms of protecting your criminal records, it is all but useless for a DUI in Georgia. This is because the special plea to nolo contendere is based on not “contesting” the DUI in GA at trial, but also not admitting guilt on the record.

DUI Nolo Georgia

Prior to July 1, 1997, when DUI laws in GA were radically changed, a nolo contendere plea could be entered every five years. Many old timers, familiar with that outdated rule for a DUI no contest case, still search Google for the phrase, “how often can you plead nolo in Georgia?”

Judge has Discretion on Whether to Grant a Nolo Plea

The answer is zero, or virtually zero. In the last two decades, the Georgia legislature has greatly restricted access to a nolo contendere plea for any driver’s DUI offense. Only when a judge gives permission for DUI no contest, for good cause shown, and after the DUI defense lawyer files a written petition verified by the driver who is pleading to the driving under the influence charge, can this be considered.

Legislative limitations and barriers have virtually rendered the plea of nolo contendere to drunk driving to be nothing more than a historic footnote, except for rare cases where motorists are facing civil liability for a DUI accident, and the Court allows it.

These obstacles show the limited value of a nolo plea:

  • Georgia DUI law blocks drivers under the age of 21 from using a nolo contendere plea on a driving while intoxicated case (felony or misdemeanor), even if the trial judge was willing to accept it.
  • DUI GA drivers with high BAC levels [above a 0.15 reading as defined in OCGA 40-6-391 (a) (5)], cannot utilize a nolo contendere plea for a Georgia DUI.
  • If a nolo contendere disposition on any traffic offense has been used by the driver in the past 5 years (from date of arrest to date of arrest), nolo is not allowed in the current case.
  • The DUI attorney of a person seeking a plea of nolo contendere must prepare and present to the Judge a verified petition showing how the nolo disposition prevents a hardship for the DUI driver. The judge can reject it, and this issue is not appealable, since the Judge is given the discretion to say “no.”

Is a Plea of Nolo Contendere of Any Value in GA?

After the many legislative restrictions and changes to Georgia DUI laws under 40-6-391, few possible factual situations may find value in obtaining a nolo contendere disposition. Pleading no contest to DUI is rare, so much so that only about 20 cases each year in GA are allowed to do this. In the handful of nolo contendre plea dispositions each year, these hardship cases have been utilized:

  • Related civil litigation from a motor vehicle crash, where the at-fault driver seeks to plead to nolo contendere to mitigate a large civil verdict.
  • The accused drunk driver works in some business or industry for which the regulatory rules or employment manual permit a nolo plea to salvage the accused person’s job, or ability to continue in that trade or business (e.g., cosmetologist).
  • The person facing driving under the influence may be on a deferred adjudication program from another state that may require loss of favorable deferral treatment with any “guilty plea” to a serious misdemeanor or felony.

With an Out-of-State License, Will a GA Nolo Contendere Plea Benefit Me?

In reviewing Westlaw cases across the United States, a limited number of other states still seem to permit some use of a plea of nolo contendere, in limited situations involving driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence, including Mississippi, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Oklahoma, California, Tennessee, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Texas, Nevada and Louisiana, so if legal counsel from one of those states verifies some value of a Georgia judge accepting a no contest plea for a DUI in GA, to avoid a “hardship,” this might work.

The earlier historic reference to federal regulations calling for all states to eliminate “special” dispositions like nolo contendere from its state statutes, or risk losing federal highway funds, has all but wiped out these old laws. As the push by M.A.D.D. and NHTSA (an agency within the Department of Transportation) for safer highways moved forward, the “nolo” plea was an easy target for these highway safety advocates.

Subsequent legislation can neutralize any value or benefit of a plea of nolo contendere to DUI which was entered before the more restrictive new statute was enacted. In Harrison v. Commissioner, Div. of Motor Vehicles, 226 W. Va. 23 (2010), the West Virginia Supreme Court overturned two lower court rulings that blocked the WV DMV from treating a prior nolo contendere plea as a first offense DUI.

The two lower court judges believed that the new law only applied prospectively, and could not retroactively eliminate the benefit the two men who were facing the same second DUI offense penalties. The nolo contendere plea for each man was counted as a first DUI offense, which caused much harsher driver’s license revocation and criminal penalties.

What Kind of Attorney Do I Need? Searching for The Best DUI Lawyer

After being arrested for DUI in Georgia, the first thing to do it identify an expert on Georgia DUI law through top attorney ratings. Look at who is BEHIND the law firm, review each of the trial lawyers’ credentials, and check out the criminal defense attorney who leads the law office. Every experienced DUI lawyer in the law firm must have full command of DUI laws and possess training in all aspects of successfully challenging the driving under the influence criminal case.

This successful defense record must include suppressing breath alcohol tests, and knowing every prior appellate decision on the Georgia implied consent law. An increasing number of drugged driving cases require that our criminal defense lawyers know how to challenge a GBI blood alcohol or drugs test. Being an INSTRUCTOR in the three NHTSA standardized field sobriety tests (SFST) is also necessary.

The best DUI attorneys in Atlanta, Georgia will offer you a FREE consultation, explain how their criminal attorneys search for a successful defense in your case, and aggressively represent clients to the maximum extent the law allows. Limit your search to DUI lawyers who have legitimate lawyer ratings and a history of proven results on knowing how to beat a DUI. If we are the criminal defense attorneys for you, ask us about our attorney payment plans.

Call our DUI defense lawyers NOW, 24-7, for an initial case review and FREE legal advice: 404-567-5515, or email our criminal justice attorneys.

Other valuable insights on this website:

Never Plead Guilty to DUI
How Often are DUI Charges Reduced
Cconsequences of a DUI
What is a Duis

GA DUI Lawyer Nolo No Contest No Lo



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