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Fast facts about pleading nolo contendere for DUI/OUI

Getting pulled over for DUI/OUI is serious business in Massachusetts. You will face penalties in both the court system and from the Registry of Motor Vehicles and it is a major disruption in the life of those who are charged. Rather than fight the case in court, which may stretch out for months, a majority of the defendants in Massachusetts opt to work out a plea deal in hopes of reducing the sentence, lowering the penalty and/or simply trying to put this unpleasantness behind them and get their license back.

According to the Massachusetts court system criminal procedure, a defendant may plead guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere, which is a Latin-based legal term that means "I do not wish to contest." It can also be referred to as a plea of "no contest."

How does nolo contendere work?

  • You agree to a punishment without officially admitting guilt if you plead nolo contendere - this can be particularly useful if there is a question of fault in an additional civil case, such as an accompanying accident with another vehicle.
  • This is not a legal right, and can only be approved by a judge if there is a factual basis for it - i.e. there is satisfactory evidence that the offense was committed by the defendant.
  • Nolo contendere may have a residual effect on future actions. The penalties for any future charges will likely reflect your initial nolo contendere plea.
  • A nolo contendere plea will likely only work if this is your first DUI/OUI offense - after that the state prosecutor and judge will be in no mood for compromise.

The best legal advice is to not drive if you drink or use enough drugs to be over the legal blood alcohol level. But if you do get pulled over for the first time on suspicion of DUI/OUI, an attorney experienced in the field of DUI/OUI can often plead nolo contendere to get a lesser sentence or a workable penalty that is less disruptive to you and/or your family and business. If you have been convicted more than once, your options are fewer and more severe, which is all the more reason to speak with a lawyer versed in the DUI/OUI laws of Massachusetts.

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