Should You Plead Guilty to a DUI?

Find out the consequences of pleading guilty, or "no contest", to a DUI/DWI charge.

If you do plan to plead guilty, you will likely be handed a form by the bailiff (or your attorney if you have one) in which you waive all of your constitutional rights in this case—such as your right to remain silent, your right to cross-examine witnesses, and the right to a jury trial. There will a number of disclosures on the form regarding the possible punishment you face and its consequences. In some courts, the judge goes over the form with you in detail in open court while other judges refrain from putting it on the record. The reason for the form (and the open court dialog with the judge) is to make sure you can't come back later and challenge the conviction on the grounds you were not well informed about your rights.

Conviction Upon Entry of Plea

Once you plead guilty, you have been convicted of the offense. Sometimes people who plead guilty don't understand that this counts as a conviction and when later asked whether they have been convicted of something they answer no. Now you know. A guilty plea equals conviction—just as if a jury found you guilty.

Once convicted, powerful policy considerations make it very difficult for you to withdraw your guilty plea. If you are not represented by an attorney when you enter your plea (or you are being pressured by a public defender to enter the plea), you'll want to make sure that you are doing the right thing in your particular context. Here again, if you can find a private attorney to look at all the facts of your case and agree that a guilty plea is in order, you may be doing yourself a favor—even if the attorney wants a couple of hundred dollars to assess your case.

Likely Consequences of a Conviction

Here's a recap of the likely consequences of a DUI conviction: All states provide that DUI convictions are misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail and the imposition of substantial fines. Actual sentences are much less in first time nonâ

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