Alford plea attorney in Towson, MD Baltimore County Stephen P. Shepard

What is an Alford Plea?

An Alford plea is a type of guilty plea in criminal court where the Defendant does not admit to committing the crime, but acknowledges that the State has enough evidence to convict him or her. By entering an Alford plea, the Defendant is essentially admitting that they would likely be found guilty of the crime following a trial, but they are not explicitly admitting guilt.

What is the Origin of the Alford Plea?

In the case of North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (1970), the Defendant, Henry Alford, was charged with first-degree murder but maintained his innocence. However, faced with the possibility of the death penalty if found guilty at trial, Alford entered a guilty plea while maintaining his innocence and asserting that he did not commit the crime. The court accepted Alford’s plea and sentenced him to a reduced term of 30 years in prison.

Alford appealed his case on the basis that his plea was not voluntary because he was facing the death penalty. On appeal, the case reached the United States Supreme Court, which ultimately upheld the constitutionality of Alford’s guilty plea. The Court ruled that a defendant may enter a guilty plea without admitting guilt if they understand the nature of the charges against them, the consequences of the plea, and the rights they are giving up by entering the plea. In other words, the plea must be voluntary and intelligent. The Court also held that it is within the discretion of the trial court to accept an Alford plea, as long as there is a factual basis for the plea and the Defendant’s decision is voluntary and intelligent.

The Alford case set a precedent for the use of guilty pleas in criminal trials, particularly in cases where a Defendant may face the death penalty or other severe consequences if found guilty at trial.

What are the Benefits of Entering an Alford Plea?

Entering an Alford plea in a criminal case can have several potential advantages for a Defendant including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Reduced sentence: By entering an Alford plea, a Defendant may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution for a reduced sentence or lesser charges. This can help to avoid a potentially longer sentence that might result from a guilty verdict at trial.
  • Avoiding Risk: Trials can be risky for Defendants, as the outcome is uncertain and a guilty verdict can result in severe penalties. By entering an Alford plea, a Defendant can avoid the risk of going to trial and potentially being found guilty.
  • Maintaining Innocence: Although an Alford plea is considered a conviction under Maryland law, it allows a Defendant to maintain his or her innocence in the eyes of the law and the public.
  • Closure: By entering an Alford plea, a Defendant can bring closure to a criminal case and move on with his or her life, without the stress and uncertainty of a trial.

What are the Disadvantages of Entering an Alford Plea?

Entering an Alford plea in a criminal case can have several potential disadvantages for a Defendant including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Permanent Criminal Record: An Alford plea is considered a conviction, and as such, it will appear on a Defendant’s criminal record. A criminal record can have long-term consequences for the Defendant. These consequences are often referred to as “collateral consequences” and include things like having difficulty finding employment or obtaining certain professional licenses.
  • Limited Appeal Options: Since the Defendant is essentially admitting guilt by entering an Alford plea, they may have limited grounds for appeal if they later decide to challenge the conviction.
  • No Opportunity for Exoneration: By entering an Alford plea, a Defendant gives up the opportunity to challenge the charges and prove his or her innocence at a trial.
  • Negative Public Perception: Although an Alford plea allows a Defendant to maintain their innocence, the general public may still view them as guilty since they are essentially admitting that there is enough evidence to support a conviction.
  • Immigration Consequences: In some cases, an Alford plea may result in detention, deportation, or ineligibility for citizenship for non-citizens, as it is considered a conviction for immigration purposes.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Towson, MD

The decision of whether or not to enter an Alford plea should not be taken lightly. However, an award-winning criminal defense attorney can carefully evaluate the State’s evidence and the crime charged to help make this important decision. Contact our office today for a consultation with a criminal defense attorney if you or a loved one have been charged with a crime and are considering an Alford plea.

Stephen P. Shepard is recognized by Super Lawyers for criminal defense in Baltimore County

Super Lawyers "Rising Star" 2024 Honoree

Super Lawyers is a rating service of lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. To read more about the Super Lawyers selection process, click here.

Avvo Rated 10.0 for Criminal Defense

Avvo is one of the leading attorney directory listing services on the web. Avvo has ratings, reviews, and disciplinary records for lawyers in nearly every state. Avvo rates attorneys using a model that considers information that the attorney has included on their profile in addition to the information that Avvo collects from state bar associations and other organizations that license legal professionals. To read more about the Avvo rating system, click here.

Call Now