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Should You Plead No Contest to an OVI (DUI) Charge?

no contest ovi dui ohio



    Pleading “no contest” is often misunderstood.  Many people confuse “no contest” with “not guilty” but the two pleas are not at all the same.  In fact, pleading “no contest” is essentially a guilty plea.  If you plead “no contest,” you have no opportunity to explain your version of what happened to the judge. “No contest” means that you are agreeing with the prosecutor about all of the facts in the police report.

    If you are facing an OVI charge, you should definitely talk to an attorney before doing any pleas in court – especially a no contest plea.  OVI charges stay with you forever (they can never be expunged in Ohio) so you want to make sure you are fully aware of what your plea means before you go to court.


    For more discussion of no contest pleas read this post.

    A defendant pleads “no contest” in court when he or she will not contest (challenge) the facts underlying a particular crime.  Although a “no contest” plea is technically not an admission of guilt for commission of the crime, the judge will treat a plea of “no contest” as an admission and will almost every time go ahead and find the defendant guilty as charged.

    Generally, a “no contest” plea is beneficial arises in cases where there is also a possible lawsuit for damages by a person injured by the criminal conduct.

    Before entering a no contest plea (or a guilty plea), the court must personally address a defendant and inform him or her of the effects of the plea and ensure that the plea is being entered voluntarily. Cleveland v. Catchings-El, 2017-Ohio-189 citing Cleveland Hts. v. Brisbane, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 103459, 2016-Ohio-4564

    In Cleveland v. Catchings-El, 2017-Ohio-189, the Defendant was charged with an OVI, and during negotiations, the prosecuting attorney and the Defendant came to an agreement where the Defendant would plead “no contest” to the charge of OVI and would consent to the finding of guilt. During the plea hearing the trial court asked the Defendant if he understood what was happening regarding the plea agreement and the Defendant responded that he did.

    But on appeal, the appeals court in Catchings-El found that the Defendant did not understand the effects of the no contest plea and did not understand that he was admitting to the truth of the facts in the complaint since he protested to the court that he “didn’t do a urine sample.”  Therefore, the no contest plea was thrown out and the case was sent back to the trial court.


    A defendant should always consult with counsel before entering a “no contest” plea. This plea is not an expedited trial and a defendant is given no chance to defend against the charges. Once a person accepts the charges, whether or not he or she is guilty or innocent, the trial court will move to sentencing.

    A “no contest” plea is not a statement of guilt or innocence, but it shows that a defendant is not opposed to be charged as though guilty. If you want a chance to defend yourself in court, you should consult with legal counsel before entering into a plea bargain with a prosecuting attorney.

    If you have been charged with OVI or any type of related offenses and have questions about defenses related to your legal rights (including possible plea scenarios available to you), talk to one of our Columbus DUI Attorneys about your case at 614-361-2804.