There is often a misconception that being charged with a misdemeanor traffic offense in Georgia is a relatively simple matter which can be easily resolved by pleading guilty and paying a fine. However, these charges can be incredibly complex and result in unforeseen consequences. Traffic offenses lead to points on your driving record, which can affect you in various ways. Additionally, if you were involved in a collision, you might be facing civil liability for costs such as medical expenses and property damage.
The assistance of an experienced defense attorney can make a world of difference if you're facing misdemeanor traffic offenses. Your Alpharetta defense lawyer will be able to asses all the facts involved in your case and advise you on a strategy that will limit the criminal and civil consequences. At times, such a strategy can include the use of a plea of nolo contendere (also referred to as 'a nolo plea' or a plea of 'no contest').
Pleading Nolo Contendere in Alpharetta County
When you enter a plea of nolo contendere, you are essentially choosing to 'remain silent' as to your guilt or innocence, or to 'not contest' the charge. This plea can be useful for misdemeanor traffic offenses, such as driving on a suspended license, following too closely, speeding, and hit and run. Most judges do not accept a nolo plea to charge of DUI, though there is a chance that your Georgia DUI attorney could convince the court to accept such a plea.
The criminal penalties you face will not be reduced or changed in any way by by entering a nolo plea. The penalties will be similar to what you will face if you enter a guilty plea or were convicted of a misdemeanor traffic offense. These often include payment of a fine. Additionally, the judge presiding over your case is not required to accept a nolo contendere plea. He or she may choose to reject this plea. Despite the fact that you will not enjoy reduced penalties, a nolo plea can still carry many benefits.
How a Nolo Plea Can Affect Your Georgia Driving Record
The Georgia Department of Driver Services assigns each traffic violation a point value. As of the time of this writing, a charge of speeding (24-33 miles per hour over the posted speed limit) will result in 4 points added to your driving record; a conviction of possessing an open container of an alcoholic beverage will driving will result in 2 points added to your record. A driver who accrues 15 points in a two year (24 month) period will have their driving privileges suspended.
However, if you enter a plea of nolo contendere to a traffic offense, no points will be added to your Georgia driving record. It is important to note that the fact that you have entered a nolo plea to a particular charge will still appear on your driving record and may have implications on your car insurance policy.
Criminal Charges and Civil Liability
Auto collisions can often involve property damage. This may take the form of damage to your vehicle, damages to another moving or parked vehicle, damage to municipal or private property, and/or medical expenses due to injuries sustained in the collision. Following such an event, the insurance companies and/or individuals responsible for paying for this damage will seek compensation from the party who may be at fault.
If you have been charged with a traffic offense and entered a guilty plea, or if you have been found guilty following a criminal trial, this is a fact that can be used against in a civil proceeding. In criminal court, in order to establish guilt, a threshold of 'beyond a reasonable doubt' must be met. This is the highest legal standard, as the ramifications of a criminal conviction can be incredibly serious. However, when determining civil liability, the threshold is 'preponderance of the evidence', which is a much lower legal standard.
If an individual pleads guilty or is found guilty after a criminal trial, this guilt may be considered as part of a civil proceeding regarding the matter. However, if an individual enters a plea of nolo contendere, this may not be used when determining civil liability in matters relating to the charge.
How Will a Plea of No Contest Affect my Car Insurance?
Insurance companies set their rates based on a variety of factors. When a driver is convicted of a traffic violation and/or accumulates points on a driving record, this can result in an increase in coverage rates. If you enter a plea of nolo contendere, this plea will be on your driving record, despite the fact that no points will be added to the record. Your insurance company may still raise your insurance rates based on the severity of the charge, your geographic location, your driving history, and other factors.
Roswell Traffic Violation and DUI Defense
A nolo plea may offer certain benefits in terms of avoiding points on your Georgia driving record and navigating civil matters associated with the arrest, but it it is not appropriate in every case. This type of plea is not often useful for drivers between the ages of 18-21 and is not applicable for drivers under the age of 18. In addition, the circumstances surrounding your arrest might warrant a different legal defense strategy. This is why it is essential to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before entering any type of plea.
Criminal charges, even misdemeanor traffic charges, are a serious issue. These can affect your criminal record, your employment, and your finances. If you are facing charges, it is essential to have a local, experienced defense team by your side. If you're facing DUI or other traffic-related charges in Alpharetta County, call our law offices. We will immediately begin our investigation into the circumstances surrounding your arrest and we will ensure that you do not lose rights or privileges unnecessarily. We will execute a defense strategy targeted to get you the best possible outcome.