Thursday, May 22, 2014

What is a "nolo contendere" plea in a DUI case

If you have been following the news lately, specifically news related to the NFL.  You undoubtedly will have seen that Aldon Smith of the San Francisco 49ers recently resolved his criminal problems via a "nolo contendere" plea.  He entered this plea to three felony counts and two DUI counts.  If you like you can read it about it here.  So what is this "nolo contendere" plea and how does it work?

Well first of all what does it mean.  "Nolo contendere" is a latin phrase that translates to no contest.  In certain U.S. jurisdictions this type of plea is allowed where a defendant enters this plea of no contest.  Neither admitting guilt nor disputing the charge.  It effectively works as a guilty plea in the sense the charges still result in a conviction, the defendant is still sentenced as if they pleaded guilty.  Unlike a guilty plea however the defendant may not be required to allocute the charges.

So why we Aldon Smith do this.  If you followed his cases then you know there was a lot of evidence stacked up against him.  Due to the string of criminal offenses, plus his notoriety he problem wasn't going to be them.  This was a way for him to take responsibility but not admit guilt.  Its a technicality but still shows some accountability on his part.  

Now this is a Washington State specific blog.  So if you're wondering whether Washington State would allow a "no contest" plea on a DUI case.  Unfortunately not.  However we do have what is called an Alford Plea.  Many view it the same as a no contest plea.  Although there is different terminology.  

In an Alford Plea on a DUI case here in Washington State.  A defendant would say they believe there is enough evidence to convict them of the DUI.  Therefore they wish to take advantage of the Prosecutors sentence recommendation and enter an Alford Plea.  They understand it will result in a conviction the same as if they went to trial.  

How often does an Alford Plea happen in DUI cases here in Washington State.  Not many.  In my 10 years I think I have only entered one Alford Plea.  Most times Prosecutors will not allow it because they want the defendant to actually say they are guilty.  Additionally if a person is pleading guilty to a DUI or even a lesser charge they probably don't believe they are completely innocent.

However an Alford Plea is an option a defendant would have in Washington State.  If it is something that interests anyone facing a DUI in King County, WA and you're reading this blog feel free to contact my office and we can discuss the pros and cons of it.

About the author:  Matthew Leyba is a DUI Lawyer in Seattle, WA.  He is rated a perfect 10 out of 10 by, a lawyer rating service.  Additionally he has been repeatedly named a Rising Star in the area of DUI Defense by the Seattle Met Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all lawyers receive in their respective field of practice.  Contact Leyba Defense to find a DUI Attorney in the Seattle area.   

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