Question: Do I have the option to plead “no contest” to a Maryland DUI charge?
Answer: Maryland doesn’t utilize this much, a “no contest” plea. I mean, you can do one, but what they really do is what’s called a Not Guilty Statement of Facts. And essentially, that’s your way of maintaining your innocence, but you’re effectively saying, “Judge, I didn’t do what they’re accusing me of. I don’t think I was DUI; however, I think the State has enough to prove it.” That’s essentially a good way to maintain your innocence but still enter a plea. Then what happens is the judge would read the statement of charges, and if he deems that there’s enough there, then he finds you guilty or not. You can be found not guilty with that kind of a plea. And sometimes we utilize that, let’s say we don’t disagree with anything the officer says. Like, the officer says that he blew a .17, he was certainly drunk when he showed up; however, let’s say the person parked the car, walked in their house, maybe he had more drinks and came back out.
And our argument isn’t that he wasn’t impaired at the time the officer saw him, our argument is that, yes, he was drunk at that time, but he wasn’t drunk at the time of operating the motor vehicle. So, in order to save some time and sometimes to wade through all the testimony that you need, you just say, “Hey, I agree to what the officer says, but here’s my argument.” And that’s another way to do it.
And the other thing would be that there’s some jobs, some security clearances that you cannot enter a guilty plea. But if you enter a Not Guilty Statement of Facts, it can have some benefit because you haven’t actually incriminated yourself in any way, you haven’t actually admitted guilt, but the judge can find you guilty and at no time can they use against you that you actually plead guilty, because you didn’t. So those are all good ways for that to be beneficial. A lot of times it just isn’t all that beneficial to do one of those pleas, and sometimes judges will say, sometimes it will backfire and the judge will say, “Oh, well you haven’t really accepted that you did this yet.” So, I very sparingly use the Not Guilty Statement of Facts.
Some attorneys use it all the time. I only use it when I truly believe that the client doesn’t believe he’s guilty, but I think that he could be found guilty and the client does too. So we do utilize it sometimes, and sometimes there’s a set of facts that, again, we’re not disagreeing with anything, but we’re saying that that isn’t the point—that there’s another reason why. And the judge sometimes does find them not guilty. So, we do utilize them but it’s generally called a Not Guilty Statement of Facts.