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Understanding No Contest Pleas in Ohio DUI Cases

Posted On: March 15th, 2023   |   Posted by: Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP
Stack of DUI case folders in criminal court

When you have been charged with a criminal offense, such as driving under the influence (DUI) or operating a vehicle while impaired (OVI), there are several ways in which your case could play out.

By pleading guilty, you will be convicted and sentenced accordingly. When you plead not guilty, you must work out a plea agreement with the prosecutor or bring your case to trial.

However, another option is a no-contest plea. When you have been accused of drunk driving in Ohio, pleading no contest could be the right option for your case.

What Is a No-Contest Plea?

Under Rule 11 of the Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure, four types of pleas are available for defendants facing DUIs and other criminal charges. These include:

  • Guilty
  • Not guilty
  • Not guilty by reason of insanity
  • No contest

No contest is different from pleading guilty or not guilty. When you plead no contest, you are not admitting guilt but instead accepting that there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction. However, under Ohio law, no contest pleas can only be entered if you have the court’s consent.

When Is it a Good Idea to Plead No Contest in an OVI Case?

There are several occasions in which it may be in your best interest to plead no contest when you are accused of an OVI. First, it may be wise to plead no contest if you hope to move forward with an appeal to the judge’s ruling.

If you were to plead guilty, you are waiving your right to appeal the judge’s decision in your case. However, according to Rule 12 of the Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure, you still have the right to appeal if you are convicted after pleading no contest.

You might also choose to plead no contest if you are facing civil liability for damages you allegedly caused in a drunk driving accident. If you were to plead guilty, the injury victims in your case could use this as evidence to prove you are liable for their damages. However, if you plead no contest, your plea cannot be used as evidence in the civil trial against you.

Should You Take a No Contest Plea?

It is sometimes unclear what steps you should take when you have been charged with an OVI. However, there are certain instances when you should take a no-contest plea. When you take a no-contest plea, you can often resolve your legal issues more quickly than if you were to enter a not guilty plea.

However, since a no-contest plea does not acquit you of the charges against you, you will still need to go to court and face the criminal sentence of a conviction if the judge does not rule in your favor.

You can rely on your DUI lawyer to review the evidence against you to determine whether a no-contest plea is appropriate. If insufficient evidence exists to prosecute, your attorney may recommend a not guilty plea.

However, if the evidence is insurmountable, a no-contest plea gives you the chance to reduce your sentence and avoid some of the harsher implications of a conviction.

Recent Ohio Supreme Court Decision Examined No Contest Pleas

Although no-contest pleas may be an excellent option for your case, that does not necessarily mean the judge will accept your no-contest plea. In fact, a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision in State v. Hill, examined whether the judge presiding over that case abused their authority by refusing to accept the defendant’s no-contest plea.

Here, the presiding judge refused to accept Hill’s no-contest plea after he filed motions to suppress evidence which the judge overruled. When Hill attempted to plead no contest so he could have an opportunity to appeal the judge’s ruling regarding his motions to suppress, the judge did not accept his no-contest plea.

Hill then decided to appeal his case with the Fifth District Court of Appeals and argue that the judge should have accepted his no-contest plea. However, the Court of Appeals agreed with the judge’s decision. Hill appealed his case with the Ohio Supreme Court, which determined that the judge abused their authority to reject a no-contest plea when they refused to accept Hill’s plea.

Have Questions about DUI Plea Options? Call LHA Today

Do you have questions about which plea will produce the most favorable outcome in your DUI case? If so, do not hesitate to contact a knowledgeable and respected Ohio DUI attorney at Luftman, Heck & Associates to discuss your options further. Please fill out our online contact form or call our office at (614) 500-3836 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.

I can FINALLY breathe easy now. I want to thank Mr. Bowen and all the attorneys that helped me with this case.

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