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Can I defend a Utah DUI charge by pleading no contest?

Some people mistakenly believe that pleading no contest (or "nolo contendere") will somehow support their claim of innocense when facing a DUI charge in Utah.  Pleading no contest to a DUI charge in Utah has almost exactly the same effect as pleading guilty, and can result in consequences and sentencing just as severe as if you had pled guilty.

There are a few limited circumstances in which a no contest plea will be to your advantage in a Utah DUI case.  But these circumstances are typically limited to situations in which there may be civil litigation pending relating to injuries or damages alleged to have been caused as a result of the drunk driving.  Under these circumstances, a no contest plea typically cannot be used against you in the civil case, whereas a guilty plea could be considered as an admition of relevant facts pertaining to the civil case.

Unless you are facing both a civil lawsuit and a criminal prosecution, a no contest plea is often just another way to get convicted.  If you believe that you are innocent or have grounds to fight your DUI charge in Utah, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before making any plea or accepting any plea offer from a prosecutor.

Stephen Howard is an experienced criminal defense lawyer based in Salt Lake City and practicing throughout Utah.  He has handled thousands of criminal defense cases - more than most Utah attorneys will see in their entire careers.  Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation.


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  • Utah Probation Attorney Released - Client absconded for more than 10 years from felony probation with Adult Probation and Parole. At an order to show cause hearing, prosecutor argued aggressively for prison. Based on effective mitigation efforts by the defense, the judge agreed to release client without further jail.
  • Violent Crimes Assalt Defense UtahProbation - Client charged with aggravated robbery based on allegations he entered a store with a gun and mask and demanded cash. Client confessed to police before hiring a defense attorney. Defense mitigation efforts resulted in a negotiated resolution that removed life in prison as a possibility, and secured a probation sentence from the court.
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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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