Georgia law allows individuals to enter this special type of plea once every five years. This article serves to explore the meaning of this plea, its effect, who can use it, and when to use it.   

Nolo Contendere Defined

Nolo
contendere literally means, “no contest.” By entering this plea, although you
acknowledge there may be enough evidence to convict you of the alleged crime,
you are technically not admitting guilt. It is important to note the nolo
contendere plea (also called “nolo”) acts as a conviction. Additionally, a nolo
plea will not reduce punishment ordered by the sentencing judge, you will have
the same punishment as if you had plead guilty.

The Benefit of a Nolo Plea

If a
nolo plea acts as a conviction, then what separates it from a guilty plea? A
nolo plea to certain traffic offenses prevents
the conviction from being reported to DDS
. As a result, no points will be
assessed to your license. But, whether your insurance company raises your
insurance rates is uncertain as every insurance company has different terms and
conditions.

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Holders and Nolo
Pleas

Unfortunately,
a nolo plea does not prevent a commercial driver’s license from being suspended
or disqualified. CDL holders are held to a higher standard than the general
public because commercial vehicles pose a greater risk to the public (they are
much larger and more difficult to operate) than non-commercial vehicles. As a
result, a nolo plea has no value to a CDL holder; the CDL holder should contact
an experienced attorney to get the case dismissed or reduced to a
non-reportable offense.  

Drivers Under 18 and 21 Years Old

Drivers
under the age of 18 are unable to use a nolo plea. The law seeks to hold young
drivers accountable for traffic violations to deter them from future offenses.
Those under 18 should also consider hiring a lawyer to get their case dismissed
or reduced to a non-reportable offense. Drivers under the age of 21 can use a
nolo plea, but it rarely helps. For the following offenses provided under
O.C.G.A. § 40-5-57, a nolo plea will not avoid a license suspension for drivers
under the age of 21:

  • Reckless Driving;
  • Aggressive
    Driving;
  • Escaping or
    Fleeing Using a Motor Vehicle;
  • Racing;
  • Improper Passing
    on Hill or Curve;
  • Unlawful Passing
    of a School Bus;
  • Hit and Run /
    Leaving the Scene of an Accident; and
  • Exceeding the
    Speed Limit by 24 mph or greater

When to Use a Nolo Plea

For
those drivers above the age of 21, a nolo plea can be very useful in many
different circumstances. Nolo pleas are generally useful in driving without
insurance, driving with a suspended license, and hit and run cases. That being
said, it is still generally good practice to consult an attorney to determine
whether you should use a nolo plea or try to get the case dismissed or reduced
to a non-reporting offense, thereby saving your nolo plea (remember, you can
use it only once every 5 years).

You do
not want to use a nolo plea for minor traffic offenses where the case could be
dismissed or reduced to a non-reporting offense. Examples include but are not
limited to: failure to yield, speeding (over 14mph the limit but not super
speeder), improper turn, following too closely, failure to maintain lane. A lot
of times, prosecutors will dismiss the case if you successfully complete a
driving course or something similar. You also do not want to use a nolo plea
where other alternative sentencing options are available, such as: pre-trial
diversion, conditional discharge pleas, or some type of informal agreement to
dismiss. These are common in marijuana possession cases, minor in possession
cases, and shoplifting cases if you have no prior criminal history. Lastly, you
should not use a nolo plea on a traffic charge that would not show up on a
Motor Vehicle Report because it would not be reported to DDS. Examples include
but are not limited to: too fast for conditions, basic rules violations,
speeding (14 mph or less above speed limit), expired registration, and parking
tickets.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been
arrested for driving under the influence, contact the law firm of W.
Scott Smith at 404.581.0999
 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta DUI attorney ready to aggressively fight
on your behalf. You can also find out more detailed information about Atlanta laws here.