An Alford Plea is a guilty plea in a criminal court. However there is a twist. With the Alford Plea, a defendant is pleading guilty but claims his or her innocence.
This is a very similar plea to Nolo Contendere, or no contest. With a no contest plea, the defendant accepts whatever punishment the court applies but does not admit guilt.
There are three types of criminal pleas:
- Guilty: admitting to the offense(s) of which you are accused.
- Not Guilty: accepting no guilt for the crime of which you are accused.
- No Contest: you neither agree nor disagree with the charges against you, but make this plea to close the case.
An Alford plea, also known as a “best interests” plea stops the full process of a criminal trial because the defendant, typically with the court’s permission, accepts the punishment that a guilty verdict brings without admitting guilt.
Despite claiming innocence, a defendant making an Alford plea considers the evidence too strong to go to trial.
Not all states allow Alford pleas. Courts also differ on whether an Alford plea is admissible in a later criminal trial. They do tend to agree, however, that a conviction coming from an Alford plea may be considered in sentencing for a later criminal conviction.
The courts have come to differing conclusions as to whether and how Alford pleas may come into play in civil cases.
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