When a convicted criminal accepts all charges filed against him and pleads guilty for what he is accused of, it is termed as a guilty plea. However, a plea is termed as an Alford plea when the convict does not plead guilty to all that he is accused of in the charge sheet but pleads guilty for the cause of the case. This plea is executed in a situation where the accused is not willing to accept the petitioner’s accusation, but is willing to plead guilty to an accusation of lower degree to secure him from a higher punishment.
This type of a guilty plea has been in play since it was first used in a case in 1970. The defendant was accused with first-degree murder and was not willing to plead guilty for it. Following the verdicts of eyewitnesses, the defendant was charged and would have had to go through death penalty. However, the defendant was allowed to plead guilty for second-degree murder, which would help him get 30 years of imprisonment as the punishment instead of death penalty. The defendant testified that he had not committed the crime but was pleading guilty only to avoid death penalty.
The judge preserves the right to decide whether a defendant should be allowed to vow this plea of guilt. This is to prevent the misuse of the law by the defendant. Two conditions need to be satisfied in order to execute this type of a plea.
- A defendant who is confessing to the crime through this plea should understand that he is giving up his rights to defend, to continue the case and to be able to prove his innocence. Hence, the judge should make sure that the defendant understands how the plea works and whether it is the best option for the defendant. The defendant will be treated guilty once the plea is made.
- The judge should also make sure that the defendant is proven guilty of the accusation that he is confessing. There should be substantial evidences to prove that the defendant is guilty, otherwise the plea will not be accepted.
The Alford plea comes as a boon to those convicts who do not accept the petition filed by the petitioner but could be met with a harsh sentence. It becomes more practical for the defendant to plea in this way than to go face such punishment.Google+