Pleading No Contest to DUIs in Michigan

If you are charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Michigan, you have the option of pleading no contest at your pretrial hearing. However, this plea should only be entered in certain cases and only after consultation with an experienced DUI defense attorney.

The Pretrial Hearing

Prior to trial, your case will go through a pretrial hearing. At this hearing, you will enter one of three pleas: guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere—the Latin phrase for “no contest.”

What Does No Contest Mean?

Essentially, a plea of no contest means that you neither admit to nor deny committing the alleged crime. While it is not an admission of guilt, there are ramifications for pleading no contest. In fact, in Michigan a no contest plea has exactly the same effect as a guilty plea would.

What Will Happen If I Plea No Contest?

If you plea, no contest in your Michigan OWI case, you will be subject to the same fines and penalties as you would for being convicted. This means that for a first offense, you could:

  • Spend up to 93 days in jail
  • Be fined up to $500
  • Have your driver’s license suspended for 30 days
  • Be sentenced to perform up to 360 hours of community service
  • Have six points added to your driving record
  • Pay a Driver Responsibility fee of $1,000 for two consecutive years

How is Pleading No Contest Different from Pleading Guilty?

The difference between a plea of no contest and a guilty plea boils down to the conviction’s effect on future legal actions that could be filed against you. For instance, if a person who was injured as a result of the OWI attempts to bring a civil suit against you, a conviction stemming from a no contest plea could not be used as evidence that you were negligent in that civil case.

On the other hand, if you plead guilty to OWI and are convicted, that conviction can be used against you in a personal injury suit or other civil action filed by the injured party. Because of the potential penalties at stake, you should consult with an experienced defense attorney before pleading no contest in your Michigan OWI case.

Should You Ever Plead Guilty?

The answer to this is a little more complicated because to say it would never be okay indicates that an OWI could not be a good outcome. There are times where an OWI is a good outcome. In cases of multiple offense scenarios, a first offense OWI outcome might be preferable.

However, the best thing to do is to obtain an attorney to review your case and the facts of your case and then sit down to discuss what your goals are so that the attorney and you together can find the right type of resolution. But to foreclose the possibility that an OWI could be a valuable plea would generally ignore some of the practicalities of OWI defense.