Pleading “no contest” or nolo contendere means: Not admitting being guilty of the crime you’re charged with, but you signify your acceptance of punishment as if you were guilty. In this case, no trial is held, and often, you will be immediately sentenced. In the context of a drunk driving or DUI offense, such a plea is usually discretionary with the judge. There are however certain circumstances where the plea is not an option. For instance, the plea may not be available where the offender has refused to submit to a chemical sobriety test at the time of arrest, or where the offender had a prior guilty plea or verdict or a prior no contest plea to DUI during a “look-back” period, or where the offender had excessive results on a blood alcohol test or a bad driving history.
Pleading no contest to a DUI charge has almost exactly the same effect as pleading guilty and it can result in being punished just as severely as if you had pleaded guilty. There are only a few situations where a no contest plea will be to your advantage in a DUI case. Usually, these circumstances are limited to situations in which there may be civil litigation relating to injuries or damages alleged to be the result of your drunk driving. In such cases, a no contest plea typically cannot be used against you in the civil case, while a guilty plea could be considered as an admission of relevant facts pertaining to the civil case.
In fact, a no contest plea is often just another way to get convicted, unless you are charged with both a civil lawsuit and a criminal prosecution. If you have grounds to fight your DUI charge or know that you are innocent, you should consult with your DWI lawyer before making any plea or accepting any plea offer from the prosecutor.
A no contest plea will however not in any way lift the administrative suspension of the license by the state’s driving agency. Particularly for a non-resident DUI offender licensed in another state, a no contest plea will not automatically save a non-resident offender’s license from the automatic suspension. The home state will routinely suspend or revoke the offender’s license in their home state after being notified of the plea pursuant to the terms of the Driver’s License Compact. In addition, the plea will be added to the National Driver Register (NDR), a computerized database of information about drivers who have had their licenses revoked or suspended, or who have been previously convicted of traffic violations such as driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Motor vehicle agencies of every state give NDR the names of individuals who have gotten suspended or who have been convicted of a serious traffic violation. When a person applies for a driver’s license, the state looks up the name on the NDR. If the name is found, it’s more than likely that the application will be denied. Reference: Nolo – No contest