A recent news story states that a Texas judge pleaded no contest to charges of driving while intoxicated. The judge, who is used to sitting in judgment of others charged with DWI, looked on as he was sentenced to three days in jail. This is another in a string of cases where Texas judges or prosecutors have been accused of DWI.
One question that arises out of this story is what does a plea of no contest mean for a DWI case? After being pulled over and arrested on charges of DWI in Texas, eventually a defendant will be brought before a judge to make a statement on guilt or innocence. At the initial pleading where a judge determines whether the police had enough cause to make an arrest, a defendant pleads not guilty. But there are multiple chances later in the case to alter that plea.
The technical or legal term for a no contest plea is nolo contendere, literally meaning no contest. In the context of a criminal case, it means that the defendant does not contest the charges, but does not plead guilty or innocent either. Why would a person choose to make a plea in this way? Well, there could be several reasons.
One important reason for pleading no contest is for legal reasons in a civil context. For example, if a person charged with a crime, say a DWI, wanted to avoid an automatic civil lawsuit that could cost him a lot of money, he could plead no contest and it would make it more difficult for anyone seeking a judgement in civil court to win. Another reason, which may have been this judge’s purpose, is to avoid potentially negative consequences with a place of employment. By pleading no contest a defendant is essentially ending a case without admitting guilt.
While not all states allow pleas of no contest Texas does. Under Texas law a defendant can plead no contest in both felony and misdemeanor cases. This provision extends to DWIs, as well. When pleading no contest, a judge has a duty to inform the defendant of important facts. Among those warnings are the fact that by pleading no contest, the defendant is giving up his or her right to a trial by judge or jury.
After pleading no contest to a charge, the case is then over. The judge will enter judgment in the case giving a sentence based on the facts and negotiations made between the prosecutor and defense attorney. That is it.
Understanding Your Rights
Before you decide that plea of no contest is for you, it is vitally important to talk with a qualified, professional DWI defense attorney. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm, we can counsel you and help you understand all of the options available to you in your case. These include plea deals with the prosecution for no contest or guilty pleas, and going to trial to prove your case in court. No matter what choice you make, our team of professionals will be your advocates every step of the way. Contact us now so we can defend you.