Can I plead nolo contendere to my DUI charge?

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Georgia, experienced Georgia DUI trial attorneys James “Skip” Sullivan and Bob Chestney are available to discuss your case anytime – including after-hours, weekends, and holidays!  Call us at 404.816.8777 

One of the most common questions we hear is “can I plead nolo contendere or no contest to my Georgia DUI charge?”  Nolo contendere essentially means “no contest” – you are not contesting the charge against you.  For most traffic offenses, a nolo contendere plea is not deemed to be a conviction (although it is most certainly a final disposition).  A nolo plea for moving violations can avoid points assigned to your Georgia driver’s history if it is used only once every five years.  A nolo plea may also help avoid an additional license suspension for certain offenses such as Driving While License Suspended and No Insurance.  A nolo contendere plea may help shield liability if there is a civil suit against you in an accident case.

However, there is of course the DUI exception to entering a nolo contendere plea under Georgia law.  None of the above apply to entering a nolo contendere plea to DUI in Georgia.  Your license or privilege to drive in Georgia WILL be suspended upon a nolo contendere (no contest) plea.  And a nolo contendere plea for a Georgia DUI is only permissible if ALL of the following conditions are met:

  • The defendant is not under 21 years of age;
  • The defendant’s alcohol concentration was not above 0.15 at any time within three hours after driving or being in actual physical control of any moving vehicle from alcohol consumed before such driving or being in control ended (meaning if the test result is 0.15 or more, you are statutorily prohibited from entering a nolo plea to a Georgia DUI).
  • The defendant has filed a verified petition with the court requesting that such a plea be accepted and setting forth the facts and special circumstances necessary to enable the judge to determine that accepting such a plea is in the best interest of justice; and
  • The judge has reviewed the defendant’s driving records that are on file with the Department of Driver Services.

In addition, a nolo contendere plea for a DUI is treated as a conviction and the penalties are exactly the same as if you entered a guilty plea or were convicted after trial for DUI.  As a practical matter, most Georgia judges simply will not accept a plea of nolo contendere to a Georgia DUI charge, regardless of a defendant’s circumstances.  Again, a nolo contendere plea will NOT prevent a suspension of your driving privileges, nor will it undo an administrative license suspension.  Your license or privilege to drive in Georgia will be suspended for a nolo plea to DUI the same as if you entered a guilty plea or were convicted after trial.  A nolo plea also won’t reverse an administrative license suspension for refusing the state chemical test.  If your license was administratively suspended for one year for refusing the state chemical test, entering a nolo plea won’t change that.  You would not be eligible for a limited permit upon entering a nolo plea to DUI if you are under an administrative suspension of your driving privileges. 

A nolo contendere plea will also appear on your driver’s history AND your criminal history.  A nolo contendere plea will always be on your complete driver’s history and criminal history -FOREVER, and will not simply drop off your history.  An expungement of your DUI case is not available if you enter a nolo plea to DUI. 

For more detailed information about your DUI arrest in Atlanta and the Atlanta Municipal Court process, click here: Atlanta DUI arrest

For more information about where we defend DUI cases in Georgia, click here:  Where we go to defend your DUI

How our skilled Georgia DUI attorneys build a successful DUI defense:

To build a strong defense in your Georgia DUI case, our Georgia DUI lawyers start by learning everything possible from the information you present.  Based on this core information, he or she can find more evidence by using specialized resources as needed to determine if all testing and other details of your arrest were accurate and legal.  This determination is the basis for a strong drunken driving defense in Georgia.  We have our own in-house investigator that gathers information, videos, 911 calls, possible surveillance videos, police reports, documents, road/scene conditions, and more.  There are times when we use the services of toxicologists, accident reconstructionists, private investigators, breath test/field sobriety experts, medical professionals, and video illustrators, to name a few, to help build the best DUI defense in your case.  Our Georgia DUI lawyers analyze a case from the initial stop or reason why the police were involved, looks for suppression issues with the admissibility of field sobriety tests or state chemical tests (breath, blood, or urine tests), and develop strategies in how to best conduct administrative license suspension hearings, preliminary/committal motion hearings, and trial.  Our team approach is an effective way to ensure we have covered all the bases in defending your Georgia DUI.

Can I just enter a guilty plea myself and avoid hiring a Georgia DUI lawyer?

There is a saying that “a person who represents himself has a fool for a client.”  DUI cases in Georgia are one of the most serious cases that are prosecuted in Probate Court, Recorder’s Court, Municipal Court, or State Court.  Even if you think you are guilty and may not want to fight your Georgia DUI case all the way, there are matters that a skilled Georgia DUI lawyer is better able to handle than someone representing him or herself.  Here are some reasons why you may consider hiring our skilled Georgia DUI lawyers rather than representing yourself:

  • You can put your driving privileges in jeopardy if you simply go to court and enter a guilty plea.  If you have been arrested by a Georgia DUI Task Force or Georgia State Patrol Nighthawk trooper, you should have been served notice of an administrative license suspension action.  If you enter a guilty plea without properly addressing the administrative license suspension action, you will not be able to get a limited permit (if you are eligible to get one at all) until the administrative action is conducted properly.
  • If your license or privilege to drive is administratively suspended for refusing the State’s chemical test from losing an administrative hearing or failing to address a license suspension action within 30 days from the date of your arrest, your Georgia driver’s license or driving privileges will be suspended for one year with NO PERMIT.  Properly coordinating and handling the criminal case and the administrative license suspension action can improve your chances of being able to drive and avoid a DUI conviction.
  • Other charges in addition to your Georgia DUI charge may be more serious and carry more punishment than the DUI charge such as DUI Child Endangerment or Fleeing and Attempting to Elude.
  • Sometimes the prosecutor may give a bad plea offer.  Even if you decide not to contest your Georgia DUI case, an experienced DUI attorney who is familiar with Probate Court, Recorder’s Court,  Municipal Court, State Court, or Superior Court can assess a plea offer to determine if it is worth taking or rejecting and take your case to trial.
  • If you decide to represent yourself at trial, the Georgia Rules of Evidence still apply to you.  Lawyers go to law school for years to learn these rules and you will be at the mercy of a skilled prosecutor and judge if you are not careful.  You may inadvertently make incriminating statements that a prosecutor can use against you if you are not represented by an attorney.

Call our experienced Georgia DUI lawyers today:

If you are facing a Georgia DUI charge, administrative license suspension action, or have been ticketed for a serious traffic offense, contact our experienced Georgia DUI defense attorneys today.  We will meet with you free of charge to discuss your options, and provide advice based on our experience in the court where your case will be heard.  Contact us today at 404.816.8777.  A Georgia DUI lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to discuss your case.