PLEADING GUILTY OR NO CONTEST

A person accused of a DUI may decide that he or she, for whatever reason, wants to resolve the case by pleading guilty or no contest. Please note: before entering a guilty or no contest plea, you should consult with a competent and experienced attorney who specializes in DUIs. It is unwise to plead no contest or guilty to a DUI without (1) obtaining the discovery and (2) reviewing the discovery with a competent attorney who specializes in DUIs.

For purposes of criminal law, a plea of “no contest” or “nolo contendere” is the same as a plea of guilty. The difference between a guilty plea and a plea of no contest is that a plea of no contest cannot be used against you in a civil lawsuit, whereas a plea of guilty can. For example, if you are involved in a DUI related accident, and damage someone’s property, you can shield yourself against civil liability by pleading “no contest” instead of guilty. A “no contest” plea made in criminal court cannot be used against you in civil court if the person whose property is damaged is also suing you for damages in civil court.

If you nonetheless wish to plead no contest or guilty to a DUI without first consulting with a competent attorney who specializes in DUI cases, you should not do so until you first inquire as to what the judge will impose (this is called an “indicated sentence” from the judge).

Sentences for a first offense DUI can vary tremendously based on

A.  County practices and standards

B.  Individual judges’ practices

C.   Facts of your case, including but not limited to

(1) Amount of alcohol detected in the chemical tests

(2) Driving issues (e.g. high speed, coupled with reckless driving, carries 60 days of jail)

(3) Whether or not you suffered an accident

(4) Your past criminal record, if any, including previous arrests and/or convictions

(5) Presence of other criminal activity in addition to the DUI charge itself

(6) Your past driving record

Please be aware that if you are contemplating pleading guilty or no contest, you are waiving (giving up) valuable rights that include:

A. Your right to a jury trial
B. Your right to remain silent or testify if you elect at a jury trial
C. Your right to use the subpoena power of the court (court order) to require a person to appear at a jury trial
D. Your right to cross examine the witnesses against you at a jury trial
E. Your right to present a defense at a jury trial

Each county has its own specific DUI plea forms.   If you intend to plead guilty or no contest, you should familiarize yourself with your county’s plea form.  Many counties on their web site offer forms over the internet. I am attaching a sample waiver of rights forms.  Before a judge would accept your plea of no contest or guilty to a DUI, the judge would have you read and initial a waiver form and then ask you specific questions about whether or not you understood what you read. SAMPLE WAIVER OF RIGHTS FORMS

DUI FIRST OFFENSE SENTENCE Here are the typical terms of a sentence in a standard DUI case:

A.  Period of probation

B.  Jail or work time (sheriff’s work program) in lieu of jail

C.  Fines from $390 to $1000, but this amount does not include the penalties and assessments and a restitution fund fine (the actual fines with all penalties and assessments range from over $1800 to $2300 or more for a first offense DUI ( you can ask the judge to make monthly payments of $75 or more per month);

D.  DUI class (six week, three month, six month and nine month DUI class

When a person pleads guilty or no contest in court, the person faces a myriad of consequences.

First, if a person pleads guilty or no contest to a first offense DUI and is living in Alameda County, Los Angeles County, Tulare County or Sacramento County, the person must install at his or her own expense an interlock device in any vehicle the person owns or operates for five months.  Tip: that is why a person should always try to have his/her charges dismissed, and if that is not possible, reduced to something other than a DUI.

I have attached a list of interlock providers. Interlock Providers

Second, after a guilty or no contest plea to a DUI, the courts are required to send an abstract of judgment (a notice) to the DMV within five business days following a DUI conviction.  Upon receiving this information from the court, the DMV will generate a letter and send it to you.  The letter will suspend your license for six months, but indicate (on page one, paragraph two, that you are immediately eligible for a restricted license if you meet their requirements (enrollment in a DUI class, proof of SR22 on file with the DMV, payment of a reissuance fee, and interlock device installation in the four pilot counties).

 I attached a copy of a letter that you should receive from the DMV if you plead guilty or no contest to a DUI in court. Suspending License After Court Conviction

Third, after a conviction, the judge will order the person to enroll in and successfully complete a DUI class.

DMV Offices  I attached a link to all the approved and licensed DUI schools throughout California.  Please note: once you enroll and complete the classes, you will receive a copy of your proof of enrollment Proof of Enrollment Certificate and proof of completion Proof of Completion Certificate.  Typically, you may be required by the judge to file proof of enrollment within ten to 30 days of the date of your conviction, and proof of completion within a month after you complete your DUI classes.  If you are so ordered, it would be wise to make two copies of your proof of enrollment once you receive it and two copies of your proof of completion once you receive it.  You should take both copies of the proof of enrollment to the court clerk.  Give one copy to the clerk for their file.  Then ask the clerk to take the second copy, your copy for your records, and to stamp “received” with the official stamp that will also note the date on it.  By having the official clerk stamp and date, you then have proof for your records that you filed this document.  You should follow the same procedure for the proof of completion.  Keep your records from this DUI case forever, in case the court loses your information, misfiles it or purges your file from their storage facility.

Additional consequences to DUI convictions may include your being unable to enter foreign countries.  For example, Canadian immigration authorities may deny entry into Canada to persons convicted in the United States of a first offense DUI.   If you are traveling to a foreign country and have suffered a DUI or DUI related conviction, you should seek competent legal advice from an attorney who practices immigration law in the country you intend to visit.

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