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What is an Alford plea?

Posted on May 27, 2020

When facing criminal charges, you must answer to the charges. If you plead not guilty, then you will go to trial and the prosecution will have to use evidence to prove you guilty to the judge or jury. The alternative is a guilty plea, but there are different types of guilty pleas that you can use, which each have their own distinct characteristics. 

According to Cornell Law School, an Alford plea is a type of guilty plea in which you do not accept guilt but you admit the prosecution has enough evidence to prove its case against you. It is often an option when you want to maintain your innocence, but your legal counsel feels you will lose the case. 

The history 

This type of guilty plea comes from a Supreme Court case, North Carolina v. Alford. This was a murder case in which the convicted person claimed he plead guilty out of fear of getting a death sentence and not as an actual admittance of guilt. The Court then created this plea to allow a person to plead guilty without accepting guilt. 

The consequences 

When you use an Alford plea, you do plead guilty. The consequences will be the same as they would with a straight guilty plea. Part of this special plea is that you accept what will happen as a result of making it and understand that the court will find you guilty on the charges. The only thing that makes this stand apart from other similar pleas, such as a no contest plea, is that you get to maintain your innocence.