Actor Michael Madsen ended his case of driving under the influence (DUI) by pleading no contest to the charges. Here's what a “no contest” plea means.
Actor Charged with DUI, Pleads No Contest
Back in March, actor Michael Madsen – best known for enforcer roles in Quentin Tarantino movies like Reservoir Dogs – crashed his car into a telephone pole in Malibu, California. He was not hurt, but a breathalyzer showed his blood alcohol content (BAC) was over the legal limit. He was arrested and charged with DUI – his second offense in the past 10 years.
Madsen has since pleaded no contest to the DUI charges. On August 17, he was sentenced to four days in jail and five years of probation.
Not Guilty, Guilty, and No Contest Pleas
Contrary to popular belief, people who have been charged with a crime in Pennsylvania have more than two options for pleading their case. Under 234 Pa. Code Rule 590, in addition to pleading guilty or not guilty, you can also plead no contest.
Pleading Not Guilty
When you plead not guilty to a criminal charge, you express an intent to defend yourself against the allegations. You are telling the court that the prosecutor has it wrong, that you are innocent, and that you intend to show it by challenging the case against you.
Pleading not guilty should be the standard response because, unlike other pleas, it can be changed later on if circumstances change. If you refuse to issue a plea, the court will issue a plea of not guilty for you.
Pleading guilty to a criminal charge is an admission that you committed the crime you are being accused of committing. It shortcuts the rest of your case, including your trial, and jumps straight to sentencing.
No Contest Pleas
Pleading no contest, or “nolo contendere,” is very similar to a guilty plea, but with some small nuances to it.
A nolo contendere plea tells the court that you are not going to fight the charges. This works like a guilty plea, but without the admission of guilt. Like a guilty plea, pleading no contest sends your case straight to sentencing, where a judge will issue sanctions based on the charges that were presented.
However, because you do not admit your guilt, your case cannot be used against you in a later civil case or an administrative proceeding.
DUI Defense Lawyer in Philadelphia: Joseph D. Lento
In this particular case, Michael Madsen could have decided to plead no contest rather than guilty in order to protect himself from civil liability in the crash. For example, he may have been facing thousands of dollars in fines for destroying a telephone pole. If he pleaded guilty to DUI, his plea would have been used as proof that he was responsible for the wreck and should have to pay. By pleading no contest, he ends the criminal case without giving evidence that the crash was something other than a simple accident.