Nolo Contendere & Alford Pleas For DWI Cases
If you’ve ever spent any time at the Brazoria County Courthouse, or any other courthouse for that matter, you may have heard of a nolo contendere plea. Nolo contendere is a Latin term that means “I will not contest it.”
You may not have heard of an Alford plea, however. The Alford plea takes its name from a 1970 Supreme Court case from North Carolina. Both will be explained below along with an examination of whether either can, or should, be used in Texas for Brazoria County DWI cases.
Nolo Contendere Plea
Commonly called nolo, nolo contendere is a simple concept.
It allows a defendant to not plead guilty to a charge and to accept punishment without accepting fault. Sounds good, right? Not so much. A nolo plea operates just like a guilty plea except for one difference, which will be explained below.
There are many misconceptions about nolo pleas.
A nolo plea results in a criminal conviction that:
- In almost all circumstances, is permanent and will follow you the rest of your life;
- Is not capable of being expunged from your record, except in incredibly rare circumstances; and
- Does not obligate the court to any greater leniency in determining your punishment.
Benefits of the Nolo Contendere Plea
When put that way, it sounds incredibly similar to a guilty plea – and that is because it is. You may be asking why anyone would consider using this legal device.
In most instances, a skilled criminal defense attorney would rarely advise this route to a client. The only benefit afforded a defendant by a nolo plea is that a nolo plea cannot be used as proof against them in a civil proceeding. For example, if you have been charged with DWI after an accident with injuries and you choose to plead nolo, the fact that you plead cannot be used against you if the accident victim chooses to sue you in civil court.
An Alford plea is very similar to a nolo plea.
The difference is that, under an Alford plea, you accept punishment because of the overwhelming evidence the prosecution has against you while maintaining your innocence.
The Alford doctrine was created in a 1970 Supreme Court case, North Carolina v. Alford. Alford was charged with first degree murder which had a potential punishment of death attached to it. Alford eventually pled to second degree murder while protesting his innocence. He said he pled guilty so as to avoid the death penalty. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and then appealed. The Court ruled that the plea was proper if the defendant was properly informed of the consequences and that the plea was in the defendant’s interests given the likelihood of a conviction.
Again, however, the end result of an Alford plea is the same as a nolo plea: a criminal conviction that you will carry with you forever.
We Are Your Brazoria County Legal Resource
In Brazoria County, TX DWI is a serious charge. Many people think that pleading guilty, or that pleading nolo or Alford, will speed up the process and they can put the whole ugly event behind them.
This is not the reality of the situation.
You need to consult an experienced Brazoria County DWI lawyer to determine the best course of action for your individual situation. Rarely will you find that these types of pleas are in your best interest.
Tad A. Nelson has continued to remain a leader in the DWI defense field during the course of a career that spans over 25 years. He knows how to apply the law to your situation and determine the best route for you to take to help get your life back. If you have been charged with DWI in Brazoria County, give Tad a call today at (281) 280-0100 to set up your free consultation immediately. Time is of the essence in DWI cases and your rights can be destroyed by the clock.