I’ve written about a plea of Nolo Contendere before, but given the level of confusion I’ve seen from other lawyers, judges, litigants, and (if I have to be honest) myself, the subject deserves a little more in depth discussion.
You can take advantage of a nolo plea only once every five years. A nolo plea is not quite pleading guilty, although you are accepting consequences for the accused behavior. Instead, you are saying that you don’t want to contest the charges and will accept the punishment, even if you aren’t saying you did it.
In a traffic court setting, there are basically five ways a nolo plea can help you.
- With moving violations, a nolo plea will avoid the assessment of points on your license if you are over 21 years of age.
- If you are accused of possession less than once ounce of marijuana, and the offense occurred prior to 7/1/15, and you plead nolo to the offense, if you take a risk reduction program within 120 days of the plea your license won’t be suspended. (If you are charged with the offense after 7/1/15, your license won’t be suspended anyway.)
- If you are charged with no insurance or no proof of insurance, and you plead nolo to the first offense within a five year period, you will avoid the suspension of your driver’s license.
- If you are charged with driving on a suspended license, a nolo plea will help you avoid the suspension of your driver’s license.
- If you are charged with driving on a suspended tag or registration, and the offense occurred after 7/1/15, once in a five year period you can plead nolo in order to avoid the license suspension. This will only work if there are no prior convictions for Driving Under the Influence or some other offenses that will automatically suspend your license.
Of course, like everything else legal and court related, it isn’t something that can entirely be boiled down to a numbered list. A nolo plea is discretionary – the judge can decide whether or not he or she will accept a nolo plea. Additionally, a nolo plea may have some impact on a civil suit if there is one related to the traffic offense. (This happens often in the case of an accident.) Some times, if you are just trying to avoid points on your license, there may be other ways to do it that don’t require you to ‘burn’ your once-in-five-years chance to use a nolo.
As always, if you don’t understand what you are doing in a Courtroom, don’t do it. Ask questions. If the people in the court house (the solicitor, the clerks, and/or the judge) won’t (or, more likely, can’t because they aren’t allowed to) answer your questions, then make sure you seek legal advice before you do anything that might have unintended consequences.
This article was written by a lawyer, but should not be considered legal advice in any way, shape, or form. It is written for general (and generally vague) informational purposes only. In order to properly evaluate your case, a lawyer must examine all the facts and circumstances that are particular and personal to your situation. I have not done that here