The cornerstone of a valid plea to a Montana driving under the influence charge is that it is voluntary and intelligent. To ensure that this is the case, one charged with DUI is told at arraignment of the charges against him or her and the potential penalties for those alleged crimes. Once a defendant understands the charge against him and the potential penalties, he or she may enter a plea of not guilty, guilty, or nolo contendere. You may choose to enter a plea of not guilty, which will require the State to prove that you committed the offense. Additionally, if you refuse to plead, the court will enter a plea of not guilty for you. Either way, if a not guilty plea is entered, the case will be set for a jury trial. In the alternative, you may enter a plea of guilty, in which case the matter will proceed directly to sentencing. However, to enter a guilty plea, you must understand both the charge against you and the potential penalty that may be imposed. If you fail to admit any element of the offense against you and no factual basis for a guilty plea is presented, the court may refuse to accept your guilty plea. With the permission of the court and the prosecutor, a third option may be available: a plea of nolo contendere. This means that you do not contest the charge but you also do not plead guilty. With this plea, the next step in the proceeding will be sentencing. Although one charged with a crime such as DUI may enter into a plea agreement with the State prosecutor, the court may reject the agreement. Under some circumstances, a defendant may be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea. However, this is an area best navigated with experienced defense counsel. The law firm of Tipp & Buley provides aggressive DUI defense services to clients across Western Montana, including Missoula. We will be happy to discuss your case with you and help you decide the best plea for the facts of your case. To schedule a confidential, one-on-one consultation, visit our website online or call 406-549-5186.