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Auburn Defense Attorney Explains Why Alford Pleas Are Ill-Advised

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Some people charged with a crime would be quick to enter a guilty plea in hopes of serving less time in jail. Defense attorneys like “Super Lawyer” Kim E. Hunter advise against this, as the client doesn’t consider his or her other legal options. If the evidence in favor of the defense is strong but the defendant pleads guilty, there’s not much attorneys can do at that point. That said, there is a second plea you might not know about: the Alford plea.

North Carolina v. Alford

In 1963, Henry Alford was charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to death. He was, however, able to plead guilty to second-degree murder—regardless of strong evidence—and cut his sentence to 30 years behind bars. Later, he filed a habeas petition, saying his fear of the death penalty forced him to admit guilt.

The petition was denied but not before reaching the U.S. Supreme Court, citing that a guilty plea for the purpose of avoiding the death penalty wasn’t compelled to follow the Fifth Amendment. This established the Alford plea, which is still used in all but three states. Washington, in 1976, had its own version of North Carolina v. Alford, called State v. Newton.

How It Works

Former criminal defense attorney Frederick Leatherman explains that the Alford plea basically leaves proving the defendant’s crime to the prosecution. On the other hand, in a guilty plea, it’s the defendant himself or herself proving his or her crime. It’s different in Washington, however; an Alford plea is considered a guilty plea.

This is because, either way, the facts of the case are presented. As the defendant, entering into a guilty or Alford plea means you’re serving yourself on a legal platter. Leatherman adds that Alford pleas have serious implications as far as granting parole goes. A parole board reviewing a person’s case may deny him or her of parole since he or she didn’t admit to the crime.

Other Avenues

Although allowed by state law, Alford pleas are rare, namely due to their complexity. An easier way to defend against charges would be to enlist the aid of an experienced Auburn defense attorney. If guilty pleas are ill-advised in most situations, she’ll look for another way to defend your case. You don’t want to be charged for a crime you technically didn’t commit.

Don’t be hasty in staking your claims. A skilled criminal defense lawyer in Auburn takes her time planning the best approach but formulates the plan just in time for your trial. Unless the attorney tells you to plead guilty, leave the strategizing to her.


“The differences between regular guilty pleas and Alford pleas,” Frederick Leatherman Law Blog, April 8, 2013

“Knowledge Versus Acknowledgment: Rethinking the Alford Plea in Sexual Assault Cases,” Seattle Journal for Social Justice, June 2007

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