By Irina Dmitriyev, Michael Bixon
Nolo contendere, Latin for “no contest,” or “I will not contest,” is a form of a plea in criminal proceedings. A plea of nolo contendere means that the defendant neither accepts nor denies responsibility for the crime, but still chooses to accept the punishment. Pleading nolo contendere means that the crime cannot be used to pursue monetary damages in a civil trial whereas pleading guilty can.
In order to plead guilty to a crime, the court needs to be certain that the individual has pleaded as such voluntarily. Furthermore, the court must have some basis for believing the pleading individual is, in fact, guilty of the crime. However, in pleading no contest (nolo contendere), the defendant will speak with the judge, who will then determine that the individual understands the potential outcomes of their plea. In speaking with the judge, the defendant also has the opportunity to explain the conditions under which they have chosen to plead nolo contendere, potentially giving the judge a better perspective on situation. In some cases, the defendant may have a lighter sentence handed down to them than they may have gotten through a jury trial.
In Georgia, the DDS (Department of Driver Services) will accept a plea of nolo contendere one time in any five year time period, and no points will be added to the defendant’s driving record. This can hold true for moving violations, however, there are some limitations to the assessment of points on a driver’s license when it comes to other offenses. For example, a plea of nolo contendere can may save a driver’s license from being suspended. Nonetheless, this may not hold true in the case of DUIs, hit and runs, so on and so forth. It can also not hold true if the defendant is under the age of 21. Pleading nolo contendere to an offense will not expunge a defendant’s record. The conviction will appear on your record just the same as if one had pleaded guilty or had been found guilty by a jury.
If the defendant is a first offender, under the Georgia First Offender Act, they can request first offender treatment by a judge when pleading guilty or nolo contendere. If the judge allows first offender treatment, the defendant will complete the terms of their sentence, and upon completion, they are considered to have no criminal conviction. In order to be eligible for first offender treatment, the defendant must have never been convicted of a felony. Under the Georgia First Offender Act, the defendant’s incident is not expunged, but the appearance of the conviction of said incident will not be on the their criminal record.