What to Consider Before you Plead "Nolo" in a Traffic Matter
Every single time I am in Traffic Court or Municipal Court, the courtroom is full of defendants who are not represented by a lawyer and are frequently pleading Nolo Contendere or No Contest to the traffic offenses against them. Most of the time, this is not in their best interest.
What is a Nolo Contendere Plea?Nolo Contendere or No Contest is plea where you do not admit guilt. However, you are also not contesting the allegations against you. You may plead No Contest once every five years and it is within the Judge's discretion as to whether to accept a No Contest plea in your case. So, it is important to ensure that using your Nolo plea has a tangible benefit in your case.
How do I know if I should use Nolo?This is a question that is dependent on your situation. In a general setting the following should be considered:
First, are you about to lose your license due to an accumulation of points?
Second, were you cited as being a responsible party in a collision?
If the answer to both of these questions is "No", then you probably don't want to use your No Contest plea under these situations.
Benefits to Nolo in Traffic SituationsThere are two main benefits to a No Contest plea in traffic court: (i) It does not assess points against your driver's license and (ii) it is not an admission of liability that can (and will) be used against you in the event that you are sued due to your involvement in a traffic accident.
I don't want points on my license, so I should plead Nolo, right?This is where people frequently misuse use a Nolo Plea. In theory, you do not get points on your license if you plead no contest to a traffic offense. However, your goal isn't to avoid the points. What you want is to ensure that your insurance rate is not increased due to your citation. Under this situation, Nolo is NOT what you want to do. Why? Because your citation will still reflect on your driver's history despite your No Contest plea. Your insurance provider will still be able to see that you received this citation and can subsequently raise your rates even though you plead No Contest and received zero points. Hence, why it is typically only advisable to plea no contest with the goal of receiving zero points if you are about to lose your driver's license.
What should you do instead?You should hire a lawyer who handles traffic citations. Your lawyer will be able to determine if a No Contest plea will actually benefit you. Additionally, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a reduction in your offense to an offense that will not report to insurance.