Much attention has been placed on the West Memphis 3 in recent years. Recently, an Arkansas judge allowed the three men to enter a plea agreement, known as an Alford Plea, whereby they essentially plead guilty but may still maintain their innocence. How does this work exactly? The Alford Plea arises out of a US Supreme Court Case that originated in North Carolina in 1970. What effect does an Alford plea have on you or your case?
In Alford v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court upheld this special type of plea agreement. An Alford plea allows the defendant to maintain his innocence while acknowledging that the State has enough evidence against him or her to likely achieve a conviction by a jury at trial. The Court went on to concede that it may be in the best interest of a defendant to accept a guilty plea in order to minimize his exposure to imprisonment or other criminal penalty even if the defendant is unwilling to admit actual culpability in a crime.
What does this mean for defendants in North Carolina? You have a right to enter an Alford plea. After speaking with your attorney, you may decide that it is in your best interest to plead guilty to charges the State has brought against you even if you wish to maintain your innocence. Perhaps your attorney has secured a probationary sentence in exchange for your plea. Perhaps you are unable to afford attorney’s fees for a full jury trial on your charges. A decision to plead guilty is always left to the person charged with the crime, and an Alford Plea allows you to decide to plead guilty without falsely confessing to a crime.
As always, please contact us with any questions you may have. Our experienced attorneys are always willing to meet with you for a free consultation concerning your criminal charges.