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What Is an Alford Plea?

September 5, 2019

This type of plea is permitted in all states except Indiana, Michigan and New Jersey

What Is an Alford Plea?

In the criminal justice system, situations may arise where a person has been charged with a crime, even though they are innocent. Yet they feel trapped, because there simply is not evidence available for them to prove their case. Perhaps they don’t have a strong alibi, or they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whatever the case may be, the accused may realize that they are stuck between a rock and a hard place: they know that they’re innocent, but accept that they likely will not be acquitted if they take their case to trial.

In these situations, an Alford plea may be the best outcome. According to a criminal attorney San Bernardino, CA, an Alford plea is an admission by a defendant that there is enough evidence to convict him — without admitting the offense itself.

The concept of an Alford plea arose out of a United States Supreme Court case, North Carolina v. Alford. There, the defendant argued that his guilty plea was not voluntary because he only pled guilty to avoid getting the death penalty — not because he was guilty. He struck a deal with the prosecution for second degree murder instead of first degree murder. Before the judge, he explained that he was innocent but was taking the plea to avoid being sentenced to death. The judge imposed the maximum sentence of 30 years. On appeal, the Supreme Court ruled that a defendant can enter this type of plea when he or she “…concludes that his interests require a guilty plea and the record strongly indicates guilt.”

Why would a person take an Alford plea? Generally, a person would do this because the evidence against them is too strong to take the risk of going to trial. Even if they are innocent, there simply may not be any way to defend against the criminal charges at trial.

An Alford plea is similar to a “no contest” plea in terms of consequences. However, with a no contest plea, a defendant does not expressly admit guilt; they are pleading “no contest” instead of guilty. As a criminal attorney San Bernardino, CA can explain, with an Alford plea, a defendant pleads guilty while maintaining their innocence.

The Alford plea is not the best choice in all circumstances. It is generally only used in situations where the prosecution refuses to negotiate a plea bargain, and where there is strong evidence of guilt. There, it may be in a defendant’s best interests to take an Alford plea. However, a defendant should only do so if he or she is able to understand the consequences of this type of plea.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in California, it is important to have an aggressive lawyer to defend you against the charges. Any criminal conviction can lead to serious consequences, including incarceration. At the Chambers Law Firm, we are dedicated to protecting our clients’ rights and freedom. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a criminal attorney San Bernardino, CA.

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