In most DUI cases, the accused person will enter into a plea agreement where he pleads guilty to a criminal charge rather than going to trial. Usually he does this to receive something in exchange from the prosecutor—such as a lesser charge or a reduced sentence. When a person decides to enter into a plea bargain, he must decide whether to plead guilty or no contest to his charge.
The Difference Between Pleading Guilty and No Contest Are Slight in Virginia
There are only slight differences between pleading guilty and no contest in Virginia. These distinctions include:
- When a person pleads guilty, he is admitting that he committed the crime he has been charged with.
- When a person pleads no contest, he is conceding the charge, but without admitting his guilt or presenting a defense. Unlike many other states, the no contest plea could be used against the person in a civil lawsuit if there was an auto accident, and could be used to prove the person’s guilt. However, the distinction of not admitting guilt by pleading no contest could be helpful in defending the lawsuit.
A person does not have a right to plead no contest. It is up to the judge’s discretion whether to permit this. Some of the factors the judge may consider include:
- Whether the person is innocent. If the facts show that the person is innocent, the judge may not allow him to plead no contest.
- Whether the plea is voluntary. The judge must be certain that the plea was given knowingly and voluntarily and was not influenced by threats or promises. In addition, the accused person must fully understand the charges against him and the legal consequences of pleading no contest.
If a person pleads no contest, he will still face the same penalties as if he pled guilty to the charges. In cases where he has defenses to the DUI charges, he may not want to plead guilty or no contest. It may be better to fight the charges in hopes of getting them dismissed and avoiding the consequences of a DUI conviction.
If you are considering pleading guilty or no contest to a DUI charge, we urge you to contact the Easley Law Firm before making your decision. Call us today at 888-386-3898 to schedule a free consultation with our experienced criminal defense attorneys.