What Is An Alford Plea And Can It Help In A Criminal Case?

When you are charged with a crime, you must submit a plea of innocence or guilt. The plea you select will typically have an impact on your sentencing. For instance, a judge may give you a lighter sentence if you plead guilty and save the prosecutor the trouble of proving the case in court. However, there are several alternative pleas you can make, one of which is called the Alford plea. Here's more information about this option and what effect it may have on your case.

About the Alford Plea

The Alford plea, also called the best interests plea or plea of convenience, is essentially the same as a guilty plea but with one major difference: the defendant can maintain his or her innocence of the crime. When a person uses the Alford plea, the individual is stating he or she did not commit the crime but concedes the prosecutor has enough evidence to obtain a conviction.

For instance, a defendant who doesn't remember committing a crime because the person blacked out prior to the event may use the Alford plea to avoid fully admitting guilt in a plea deal worked out between the defense attorney and the prosecutor.

Benefits of an Alford Plea

An Alford plea is functionally the same as pleading guilty. Technically, the defendant may be subjected to the same punishment as someone who was found guilty during a trial. In reality, a person who uses this plea is typically sentenced to a lesser punishment either because of a plea deal offered by the prosecutor or as a "reward" from the court for avoiding trial.

For instance, a Kentucky man entered an Alford plea to charges of aggravated DUI and speeding. As a result, he was sentenced to 6 days of house arrest, had his license suspended for 30 days, and was required to complete a substance abuse program. In contrast, a first-time aggravated DUI in Kentucky carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 4 days, an up to $500 fine, required participation in a 90-day substance abuse program, and possibly up to 30 days of community service.

Another benefit is this plea may not count against the defendant if the person is charged with future crimes. However, this depends on the state and the crime. For instance, an Alford plea to a DUI may still be included in a state's look-back period and counted towards future DUI convictions. However, an Alford plea to a misdemeanor may not be counted towards a state's three-strikes rule.

There are other issues that affect whether or not entering an Alford plea is right for your case. Contact a criminal defense attorney like Kassel & Kassel A Group of Independent Law Offices for more information about this option.