How Do You Plead? What to Know about Pleas in an OVI Case
If you’ve ever watched Law & Order or another courtroom drama, we’re sure you’ve heard the lingo: “not guilty,” “guilty,” “no contest,” and “not guilty by reason of insanity.”
However, TV and real life aren’t one and the same.
If you’re facing OVI or related charges, it’s important to know what these pleas—formal responses to criminal charges—actually mean.
Let’s dive in and talk about what each plea means and when you might consider it.
Most people know when “not guilty” means; it’s fairly straightforward. By pleading “not guilty,” you assert that you did not commit the crime of which you are accused (whether it is OVI, physical control, etc.)
If you plead not guilty, assuming that your charges are not dismissed, your case then goes to trial. This is where evidence is presented by the prosecution and by your OVI defense attorney, then the jury decides to acquit or convict.
“No contest” is the plea with which most people are unfamiliar. (It doesn’t feature on Law & Order much: it’s not very dramatic.)
By entering a no contest plea:
- You admit to the facts of your case, but
- You don’t admit your guilt
This sounds a bit confusing, right? How is this different from pleading guilty?
In some cases, pleading no contest is functionally the same as pleading guilty. With both no contest and guilty pleas, you avoid a trial. Unless there is a mistake in the charging documents, a no contest plea will nearly always result in a finding of guilty by the judge.
However, pleading no contest can be advantageous in some cases. That’s because a no contest plea cannot be used against you in a future criminal or civil proceeding.
As an example, let’s say Driver A rear-ends another driver (Driver B) and is arrested for driving while intoxicated. Then, Driver B sues Driver A for damage to their car and injuries. If Driver A pled guilty to the OVI, Driver B can use that plea as evidence in their lawsuit. However, if Driver A pled no contest, Driver B cannot use the plea as evidence.
Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity
In many TV shows, “not guilty by reason of insanity” functions as a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card. At the end of these shows, the defendant exits the courtroom a free man or woman.
But in reality, this plea isn’t used nearly as often and doesn’t work that way.
Being found not guilty by reason of insanity doesn’t mean the defendant immediately goes free. Following the verdict, a hearing is held to determine if the person should be subject to institutionalization. If that is the case, the court may commit the person to the department of mental health and addiction services for treatment in a hospital, facility, or agency.
Unlike a no contest plea, a “guilty” plea admits both the facts of the case and the defendant’s guilt, and accepts the consequences of conviction.
As we mentioned earlier, guilty pleas can be used in later criminal and civil proceedings.
In most cases, you’ll have the option to choose between a no contest and a guilty plea; however, there are exceptions—such as when you accept a plea bargain.
A “plea bargain” is an agreement between the prosecution and the defendant. Plea bargains are common, in part because they move criminal cases through the court faster. In some cases—though not all—the prosecuting attorney may offer the defendant a plea bargain.
There are two main types of plea bargains: sentence bargains and charge bargains.
In sentence bargaining, the prosecutor offers to recommend a lighter (less severe) sentence for the defendant’s charges. In exchange, the defendant agrees to plead guilty (or no contest) to those charges.
However, in charge bargaining, the prosecutor offers to drop some of the defendant’s charges or reduce the charges to something less serious. In exchange, the defendant agrees to plead guilty (or no contest).
You might have heard of “pleading down” an OVI to charges like reckless operation or physical control. That would be an example of plea bargaining.
It’s important to note that plea bargains aren’t guaranteed. Whether or not you are offered a plea bargain—not to mention whether or not it’s wise to accept one—depends on the evidence and circumstances of your case.
Facing OVI Charges?
If you’re facing OVI charges, it’s time to talk to an experienced OVI attorney.
The OVI attorneys at Casper & Casper can help you determine how best to fight your charges—including what to plead, whether to plea bargain or go to trial, and more. We’re here to defend your rights and do everything in our power to get you the best possible outcome in your case.
Call us today to talk to one of our firm’s dedicated OVI lawyers.