Guilty or No Contest in a DUI Case – What’s the Difference?

Getting arrested for a DUI in Fairfax County isn’t something that anyone wants to experience.

Since the entire process of getting pulled over and arrested for this offense can happen quite rapidly, it can leave you feeling completely disoriented. Being in that state of mind definitely isn’t ideal for figuring out the best way to protect yourself in the legal system.

By working with a Fairfax DUI attorney who has a reputation of working hard on behalf of their clients, you can be confident that every decision that’s made for your case will be in your best interest. However, fully trusting your attorney doesn’t change the fact that you may still have questions about things that happen during this process.

A very common question people have about DUI charges in Northern Virginia is what it means to plead guilty or no contest.

While a lawyer who’s representing their client is the only person who can answer this question in the full context of a specific DUI case, we want to provide a general overview that will give you a basic understanding of the main differences between these two pleas:

Guilty vs. No Contest

When someone pleads guilty, they are admitting to committing the crime they were charged with.

A no contest plea means an individual is neither disputing nor admitting to the charge. That’s why the literal meaning of this plea is “I don’t wish to contend.”

The Pros and Cons of No Contest

One of the reasons that confusion often arises about the differences between these two pleas is the outcome to either one may be similar. However, there are some important reasons why someone may be best served by making a no contest plea.


One advantage of this plea is it can’t be used as evidence of guilt in the event of a subsequent civil trial, such as when a person is charged with a DUI due to a car accident involving another person. And, depending on the specifics of a Fairfax DUI charge, this approach to making a plea may also result in expediting the court process and/or potentially receiving a lighter sentence.


In terms of downsides to pleading no contest, it’s important to understand that a judge will view this plea in the same way they would a guilty plea. That means the arrest and any penalties imposed will go on someone’s record. It also means that if they’re charged with another crime in the future, the previous DUI arrest will still be viewed as an aggravating factor.

The potential pros and cons of opting to plead no contest show the importance of having a knowledgeable DUI lawyer who can make the best decision based on a specific DUI charge.

Contact A Fairfax, Viriginia DUI Attorney

For an experienced Fairfax DUI Attorney who will always pursue the best solution in your case, contact Eric E. Clingan at the NoVa Law Firm.

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About the Author: Eric Clingan

About the Author: Eric Clingan

Eric Clingan is an experienced Criminal Defense attorney and the founder of the NoVA Law firm. He focuses his practice on defending residents of Northern Virginia charged with DUIs, reckless driving, drug charges, and other criminal accusations

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