Alford Plea in Georgia
Alford pleas and nolo contendere pleas are both special pleas defendants can use in court. An Alford plea is a guilty plea in criminal court, where the accused does not admit to the crime but instead asserts their innocence. The Alford plea is a controversial defense because it is neither a full admission of guilt or innocence. It is only used for felony cases. If you are considering an Alford plea for your case, you must speak to a Georgia Criminal Lawyer today.
Background of the Alford Plea
The Alford plea derived from a first-degree murder case in North Carolina. The accused, Henry Alford, argued that he was innocent the whole time, but the investigation did not support his claim of innocence. Therefore, he pled guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder while still arguing that he was innocent of the crime. The United States Supreme Court took the case to try and decide whether it was proper to accept a guilty plea accompanied by a protestation of innocence. After deliberation, the Court found that there is no constitutional error in accepting a guilty plea even when the suspect still maintains they are innocent.
What Happens When the Alford Plea is Used
Prosecutors characterize Alford pleas as a method of entering into a guilty plea without actually admitting to the act. If you go to trial, it is likely you will receive a much harsher sentence than if you pled before the trial.
When attempting to use an Alford plea, a judge may ask:
- Do you now consider it to be in your best interest to plead guilty?
- Do you understand that upon your Alford plea you will be treated as being guilty whether or not you admit that you are in fact guilty?
Entering into an Alford plea does not affect the sentencing process. The defendant is still convicted as if they had used a normal guilty plea.
When Should Alford Pleas Be Used
Alford pleas may seem strange because a person allows himself or herself to be convicted while claiming they are innocent. However, they can be beneficial in situations where there is a high probability they will be convicted at trial. An Alford plea will allow them to obtain a lower sentence than if the case went to trial.
One thing to note about Alford pleas is that judges are not required to accept them. Some judges will not allow Alford pleas because they believe that suspects should admit their guilt in felony cases. If the defendant denies to admit guilt, then judges think a jury should decide the case. Suspects where the crime involved a sexual offense often use the Alford plea to avoid admitting to family or the public that they committed the crime.
Alford Pleas Should Not be Used Without First Speaking With an Attorney
No decision should be made without speaking to an attorney! What may appear to be a reasonable decision to you may not actually be in your best interest. Our office has over 50 combined years of criminal experience and is prepared to advise you on your case today! Contact us now for a free case evaluation.