Understanding the Alford Plea in New York

If you’ve been charged with a crime in New York, a significant part of resolving your case depends on how you plead. In the simplest terms, there are three basic pleas; you can plead either guilty, not guilty, or no contest. However, there is something else that can occur. Defendants may consider using an Alford plea. You may have heard this term in passing, but may be unfamiliar with this alternative, so be sure to read on to learn about what this plea does and why a defendant may choose to exercise this option.

What is an Alford Plea in NY?

Like many states, New York accepts Alford pleas. What is an Alford plea, you may ask? Well, it is a type of plea agreement where the defendant makes a guilty plea for an offense, while simultaneously maintaining their innocence. 

The term stems from a significant Supreme Court case. In this case, the defendant, Alford argued that his guilty plea was not of his own choosing and was used only because he was worried about getting a death sentence, not because he was really guilty of murder. The Supreme Court found that a defendant can enter this type of plea under these circumstances: When the defendant doesn’t admit to guilt but acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict them.

What is the Difference Between an Alford Plea and a No Contest Plea? 

If you enter either an Alford plea or a no contest plea, you’re essentially pleading to a guilty plea. A defendant who uses an Alford plea is claiming to be innocent while simultaneously pleading guilty. This may be similar to no contest, but here defendant will accept that they can’t defend themselves successfully, and they don’t admit guilt, but they do accept the penalties that come with the process. For no contest pleas, the defendant accepts punishment, but doesn’t admit guilt. 

Why Would Someone Want to Enter an Alford Plea?

If an Alford plea still ends in conviction, why would you want to plead this way?  Well, much of the reasons for this has to do with evidence. For instance, the evidence against you may be too strong to overcome that would make a difference in preventing a conviction. If you proceed with the trial, you could end up with a harsher penalty then what you get with your Alford plea. Perhaps there just isn’t enough evidence in your favor. Maybe your alibi is shaky, or the facts just don’t line up for you. 

Thinking About Alford Plea Options? Talk to an Attorney

If you’re charged with a crime in New York, you must weigh all of your options, and that could include making an Alford plea. Regardless of the crime, criminal charges can’t be taken lightly. With your reputation, livelihood, and freedom possibly at stake, it’s critical that you discuss your situation with a highly experienced defense attorney. Reach out to one of our knowledgeable MOWK Law New York criminal lawyers who can guide you through this process. Contact us today.