You may have heard that pleading nolo contendere, or “no contest,” to a charge of driving under the influence will help you avoid the penalties associated with a guilty plea. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Georgia legislature changed the laws in 1997 to keep people from benefitting from pleading no contest to a DUI charge. Georgia DUI law states that a no contest plea is akin to a guilty plea or a court conviction.
Before 1997, pleading nolo contendere would prevent your driver’s license from being suspended. This is not the case anymore—even if this is your first DUI offense, your driver’s license will be taken away.
If you have not been convicted of DUI within the last five years and are over the age of 21, the judge may allow you a “work permit,” which allows you to drive to school, work, and other necessary locations. This is all dependent on if you lost the court hearing concerning your administrative license suspension.
If you are under the age of 21, you are ineligible for a work permit. If you took a breath test and your blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08 percent or higher, your driver’s license will be suspended for 12 months. If your BAC was less than 0.08 percent, your license will be suspended for 6 months.
For drivers under the age of 21 who refused to take the breath test, this license suspension will last for 6 months (unless you were sentenced to a 12-month administrative license suspension).
As you can see, pleading no contest is no longer a sound option in a DUI case. While a nolo contendere plea can be helpful in accidents that may lead to a civil lawsuit, in many cases this does not make any sense.
The penalties for a DUI conviction include jail time, probation, community service, and expensive fines, even if you have not had a prior drunk-driving conviction. Therefore, it is important for any person facing a DUI charge to fight his or her case. An experienced DUI defense attorney will know the best way to handle your case. (source)