Entering a Plea of Nolo Contendere (also known as a “Nolo” plea or a "no contest" plea) can be a wise legal move for drivers charged with misdemeanor traffic offenses in Hall County. This plea can help to limit the damage done to your Georgia driving record and offer a certain measure of protection in cases where a traffic offense has resulted in property damage and a driver may be facing civil liability.
A nolo plea can only be used to avoid points being assessed for a moving violation once every 5 years, and the court is not obligated to accept a plea of nolo contendere. Therefore, it is essential that such a plea be used strategically by your Hall County DUI lawyer. Attorney Richard Lawson has dedicated his decades of legal experience exclusively to DUI and traffic-related defense. His legal team aggressively pursues the best defense for all clients, which, at times, can include the strategic use of a nolo plea.
Entering a Plea of Nolo Contendere in Hall County
A plea of nolo contendere means that the individual charged with a crime is choosing to 'remain silent' as to his or her guilt or innocence, or to 'not contest' the charge. This is different from a guilty plea in that you are not admitting to guilt on the matter at hand. In terms of a misdemeanor traffic offense, it differs from a guilty plea in that your driving record will remain free of points, should the court accept your plea.
The Georgia crimes for which you may enter a nolo plea include (but are not limited to):
- Driving on a suspended license
- Following too closely
- Hit and Run
- Misdemeanor possession of marijuana
Most judges do not accept a nolo plea to charge of DUI, though there is a chance that your Georgia DUI attorney could convince the court to accept such a plea.
It is important to note that you will not receive reduced penalties merely by entering a nolo plea. The penalties will be similar to what you will face if you enter a guilty plea or were convicted of a misdemeanor traffic offense (typically paying a fine).
Despite the fact that you will still face similar penalties, avoiding points on your Georgia driver's license can be the best move, depending on the charges you're facing. The Georgia Department of Driver Services assigns point values to certain traffic violations. For example, as of the time of this writing, Aggressive Driving will result in 6 points added to your driving record; a charge of Operating a Vehicle while Text Messaging will result in an addition of 1 point. A driver with 15 points in a 24 month period will be suspended.
One final note: you have the ability to enter a nolo contendere/no contest plea, but the judge presiding over your case is under no obligation to accept the plea.
Nolo Contendere and Civil Liability
One main advantage of a plea of nolo contendere relates to civil liability. There are many instances in which a traffic violation involves property damage (for example, damage to the automobile you were driving/an automobile involved or medical expenses as a result of a traffic collision). In addition to facing criminal penalties, you might be liable in civil court for these damages.
Criminal and civil courts both have a particular threshold which must be met by the finder of fact (a judge or a jury). In criminal court, in order to establish guilt, this threshold is 'beyond a reasonable doubt' which is the highest legal standard. However, when determining civil liability, the threshold is 'preponderance of the evidence', which is much lower.
If an individual pleads guilty or is found guilty after a criminal trial, he or she has essentially been found liable in any potential future civil proceeding because guilt has been established using a much higher standard of proof. However, if you enters a plea of nolo contendere, this cannot be used as an admission of civil liability.
How Will a Plea of No Contest Affect my Car Insurance?
Car insurance companies set their rates based on a variety of factors, which can include geographic location, a driving record, the make and model year of your car, and many more. The exact factors which dictate these rates are not made public. If a driver is convicted of a traffic violation and/or accumulates points on a driving record, an increase in car insurance rates can often result. If you enter a plea of nolo contendere, this plea will be on your driving record, despite the fact that no points will be added to the record. Your insurance company may still raise your insurance rates based on the severity of the charge, your policy, your driving history, and other factors.
Is a Nolo Plea always appropriate for a traffic misdemeanor?
No. It is a misconception that a plea of no contest is an 'easy' option for making a traffic offense go away while avoiding points on your Georgia driving record. There are some instances in which a nolo plea would not be useful. For example, such a plea is not often useful for drivers under the age of 21 and is not applicable for drivers under the age of 18. Additionally, the facts and circumstances of your particular case might mean that such a plea is not appropriate for your legal defense strategy. This is why it is essential to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before entering a plea.
Hall County Traffic Violation and DUI Defense
If you have been charged with DUI and/or traffic violations in Hall County, do not hesitate to call our law offices immediately. We will begin a vigorous investigation into the criminal and administrative penalties you might be facing, and will act quickly so that you do not lose rights or privileges unnecessarily. We will examine the facts of your case, and determine what type of plea would be effective to get you the best possible outcome.