If you face criminal charges, you might think your options are limited to pleading guilty or pleading not guilty and hoping no one can convince the court otherwise. You may be surprised to discover you have other choices.
One of those options is called an Alford plea. Here is how it works:
You plead guilty but maintain your innocence
It might sound like a contradiction, but it is a valid legal option in some instances. It is named after someone who reasoned that by pleading guilty, he could escape the death penalty he would surely face if convicted by trial.
Remember that people who plead guilty without going to trial often get a lesser sentence because they make things easier for the court, any alleged victims and their families.
Don’t you always have a chance to beat a charge?
You do, and even if there is clear evidence against you, you might still be able to beat the charge on a technicality. For instance, the police found illegal drugs in your house but only discovered them by breaking in without the necessary warrant. Hence, the judge declares the evidence inadmissible in court: no drugs, no proof, no conviction.
An Alford plea is for when the case against you is watertight
Let’s say those drugs were not yours. A local dealer set you up, but they did it so well that your chances of convincing anyone the drugs are not yours is zero.
If you investigate all your defense options with your attorney and realize that the case against you is so strong that regardless of what you say, you will be convicted, then you might choose an Alford plea. You are not saying you did it. You just agree to plea guilty to spare yourself an even harsher sentence.
Choosing the best option when facing criminal charges is complex. Getting legal help will be crucial.