Whether facing a civil lawsuit or a criminal case, how the accused decides to respond to the charges being leveled against them can be a pivotal point that affects the outcome of the case. This is also true when facing felony DUI charges in Sacramento, CA.
However, determining which plea is the best is not always easy. Each DUI case is different, and many factors need to be considered before pleading guilty, not guilty, or entering a no-contest plea.
It is, therefore, in the best interest of anyone charged with a criminal case or facing a civil lawsuit to discuss the merits of each type of plea deal with an attorney. In the case of a DUI charge, a good lawyer will look at the evidence that the prosecution has and advise their client on the best option.
Criminal court convictions can carry heavy sentences for those who are found guilty. As such, it is important for anyone facing DUI charges to have an experienced California DUI attorney on their side.
With a strong track record of handling many DUI cases in Sacramento, Goss Law has the expertise, determination, and compassion necessary to fight for the rights of the accused in a DUI criminal case.
The law firm can be reached at +1 916-999-7689 or by visiting its Sacramento law offices and sitting down for a free case evaluation. They can also help with questions such as Is alcohol addiction a valid defense for DUI in California?
Consequences of a DUI Conviction in California
Before looking at the merits of each type of plea, it is important to discuss what can happen if convicted of DUI. Depending on the specific circumstances of each case, a California DUI conviction can result in severe punishment for the offender.
Non-violent and first-time offenders can be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries relatively lighter sentences. However, repeat offenders or those who have caused serious injuries to the victims can find themselves facing felony DUI charges.
The following are some of the common consequences of a DUI conviction in California:
Suspension or revocation of the accused's driver’s license
Problems when looking for safe or affordable housing
Jail or prison time
Issues with child custody or visitation
Citizenship or immigration difficulties
Fines and restitution
Employment problems due to a criminal record
Loss of Federal student aid eligibility
Revocation or suspension of professional certifications and licenses
Three Pleas Under California Law
Under California Law, the accused who is facing a criminal charge has the right to decide how they want to plead before the court. In general, the accused can decide to:
Plead not guilty
Plead no contest
Entering a guilty plea means that the accused has heard all the charges leveled against them and has decided to admit guilt and accept the responsibility. A guilty plea will mean that a trial will no longer be necessary and the judge presiding over the case can set a sentencing hearing.
Not Guilty Plea
Rather than admit guilt, defendants in most California DUI cases start by pleading not guilty. This is very common even in cases where the prosecution has overwhelming evidence against the accused.
When entering a not guilty plea, the accused is claiming that they are innocent of all charges, or do not believe that the charges made by the prosecutor match what happened.
A not guilty plea will usually result in a criminal trial in which case it will be up to the judge and jury to decide whether the prosecution has enough evidence for a DUI conviction.
No Contest Plea
However, there is a third option that is somewhere between pleading guilty and entering a not guilty plea. The defendant can choose to enter a no-contest plea, which is neither admitting guilt nor fighting the DUI charges.
When a defendant decides to plead no contest, it simply means they do not wish to fight against the charges being brought against them.
However, it is important to note that entering a no-contest plea is functionally the same as having pled guilty to the California DUI charge. This is because after pleading no contest, the judge will find the defendant guilty as if they had pled guilty in the first place.
In that regard, choosing to plead no contest is not necessarily a compromise between a guilty plea and a not-guilty plea. A guilty verdict is all that future employers will see when they do a background check on the accused.
As such, whether in a criminal or civil court, pleading no contest should only be done if it has a direct benefit to the accused. The defendant should only consider a no-contest plea in cases where they had no other choice than to plead guilty.
Should the Accused Plead Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest?
The question many defendants have to face when charged with a DUI is "Should you plead no contest for a DUI in California?" It is not an easy question to answer without proper legal advice.
Deciding whether to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest is an important decision that will determine what happens next in the case.
As such, the accused needs to consult with an experienced DUI lawyer to make sure they explore all possible choices. They can also assist with other questions like Can a DUI hurt your gun rights in California.
Consequences of Pleading Guilty on a DUI Conviction
Pleading guilty to a DUI charge results in the judge immediately scheduling a sentencing hearing. Here, the prosecution may choose to present evidence to the court to advocate for enhanced sentencing.
This can involve highlighting any aggravating circumstances that may justify the judge handing down a stiffer punishment to the accused.
The following are common examples of aggravating factors that can be used against the defendant:
DUI that causes death or severe injuries
Refusal to submit to a chemical test
Driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.15% or higher
The presence of minors in the vehicle
Benefits of No Contest Pleas
Considering that a no-contest plea will immediately result in the accused being found guilty of driving under the influence, many people often wonder why it may help them to go this route.
Perhaps the most important thing to know about pleading no contest is that it can prevent a DUI conviction from being used against the accused in a civil lawsuit filed by the victims of the car accident. Taking this important piece of evidence from the table may help reduce the damages that the accused will have to pay.
Also, pleading no contest avoids the need to go through a long and stressful trial that may end up causing embarrassing events to become public knowledge. This is why, in particular circumstances, it may be better for the accused to simply plead no contest.
Considering the complexities of the California legal system, choosing a no-contest plea may be the best option even in cases where the accused cannot see any obvious advantages. This is why consulting with a DUI lawyer who has experience with these matters is very important before deciding to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
Drawbacks of Pleading No Contest to a California DUI Charge
The disadvantages of pleading no contest in a DUI case are very similar to those of pleading guilty, and these include:
Living with the negative consequences of having a DUI conviction
Submitting to whatever punishment the judge orders without contesting it
Accepting having a criminal record for DUI
Giving up the right to defend oneself in court
How to Challenge DUI Charges in Sacramento, CA
A strong defense is very important when facing a California DUI charge. Entering a not-guilty plea will usually result in a lengthy criminal trial in which the defendant will need all the help they can get.
A good DUI lawyer will come prepared with many different types of defenses that they can use to fight against the evidence being brought forward by the prosecutor.
The following are some of the common defenses that can be used against DUI charges in California:
Problems with chemical blood alcohol test results
Constitutional rights violations
Negotiating a Plea Deal
In many cases, the defendant will only agree to pleading no contest or guilty if it is part of a plea deal offered by the prosecutor. A lot of the work that a DUI lawyer does is outside the courtroom when negotiating such deals on behalf of their client.
If the prosecution feels they have enough evidence for a guaranteed conviction, they may offer the defendant a plea deal to avoid clogging up the court system with unnecessary cases. Such a deal may involve the defendant getting a reduced sentence if they plead no contest or guilty to the DUI charge.
A good lawyer will be able to negotiate the best possible deal for their clients. If it is a first offense and there are no aggravating circumstances, this may mean avoiding jail time completely.
Call Goss Law Before Admitting Guilt
There are some cases where choosing no-contest pleas is the best way to get a good outcome for a defendant facing DUI charges. However, knowing when and how to plead no contest requires the skills of an experienced DUI attorney.
Goss Law has been fighting for the rights of defendants in similar situations for many years. Anyone accused of a DUI charge in Sacramento, CA can call Goss Law and schedule a free case evaluation.