Is a no-contest plea similar to a guilty plea? If I had a drink, how can I possibly enter a plea of not guilty?
pleadings are admissions
When you enter your plea at a plea hearing, regardless of how you plead, your plea is an admission. Generally speaking, guilty, not guilty and no contest pleas have the following meaning behind them.
With a guilty plea, you admit to having committed the acts proscribed by law, with the intent that the law requires necessary to exist for those acts to be considered a crime, and without any exception. If you were charged with drunk driving, a guilty plea admits that you were legally drunk, that the police officer not only had probable cause to stop you but was absolutely correct in stopping a drunk who was driving, that your blood alcohol level was in excess of the legal limits, that all of the equipment and tests performed to determine your blood alcohol level were correct, and that you intentionally got behind the wheel of a vehicle with the knowledge that you were placing yourself and others in life-threatening jeopardy and without regard, nor concern about driving while you were admittedly drunk. A guilty plea says that you knew you were drunk, you knew it was illegal for you to drive, and you intentionally committed a criminal act.
Those admissions are far from the reality of the situations in OWI cases. Drunk driving arrests are usually the result of a momentary and unknowingly poor choice to drive, an affirmative belief that one is not so drunk that they cannot drive, an illegal stop, or faulty testing equipment. But in all my years of practicing in criminal law, I have yet to hear a defendant say that he or she thought, "I am drunk, committing an illegal act that could kill another person, and I don't care."
liability of guilty pleas
If a defendant pleads guilty to operating while under the influence of an intoxicant and injuries were caused as a result of the incident, the defendant is automatically at fault in any civil suit. The civil suit uses the guilty plea to hold the defendant liable for those injuries, and the civil court need only determine damages and award money accordingly.
To avoid admission of guilt that renders the defendant liable for injuries (current or future as a result of the same accident), a no-contest plea is an alternative.
Nolo contendere (latin for "I do not wish to contend") pleas are commonly known as "no contest" pleas.
The state of Wisconsin through the prosecutor accuses the defendant of operating while under the influence. A no contest plea to that accusation says that you neither admit nor deny the charge.
treatment of no contest pleas
If a defendant pleads no contest, the court will find the defendant guilty of the charge. Since the plea is treated as though it is a guilty plea by the criminal court, the defendant will be sentenced accordingly.
While a no contest plea results in the defendant being found guilty of the crime charged, it avoids consequences in other lawsuits.
no contest pleas in civil injury lawsuits
If a defendant is involved in an accident that results in injuries, and is charged with a drunk driving offense, a no contest plea cannot be used against the defendant in a civil proceeding. No contest pleas are always used if there is a possibility of a civil suit in the future.
not guilty pleas
A not guilty plea simply states that you are not admitting to ALL accusations.
Perhaps and unbeknownst to you, the police officer may not have had legal cause to stop you, the machinery could have been faulty, or the blood test could have been taken improperly or handled improperly afterwards. When you plead not guilty to an OWI charge, you are asking the state to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
owi-dui.com can help
You only get one chance to plead your case, and you can bet on these facts: the prosecuting attorney in your case has tried 1,000 - 5,000 times more drunk driving cases than you; it isn't the prosecuting attorney's job to give you a fair deal; every person in the courtroom gets paid by the same employer; nobody in the courtroom is responsible for you knowing the law or the rules of procedure. That is where the superior skills and extensive knowledge of an highly experienced and well qualified drunk driving defense attorney make the difference.
The attorneys represented on this site are Wisconsin's best drunk driving defense lawyers. They have tried numerous OWI cases in the Wisconsin Circuit Courts all across the state. They know the law. They know the rules. They know the courts and judges.
You may call the 800 number on this website if you cannot reach one of the numbers listed here to leave a message with a receptionist at our office for one of the attorneys to call you back. Please remember not to give any confidential privileged information.