Alford Plea Law & Legal Definition


In an Alford Plea, the criminal defendant does not admit the act, but admits that the prosecution could likely prove the charge. The court will pronounce the defendant guilty. The defendant may plead guilty yet not admit all the facts that comprise the crime. An Alford plea allows defendant to plead guilty even while unable or unwilling to admit guilt. One example is a situation where the defendant has no recollection of the pertinent events due to intoxication or amnesia. A defendant making an Alford plea maintains his innocence of the offense charged. One reason for making such a plea may be to avoid being convicted on a more serious charge. Acceptance of an Alford plea is in the court's discretion.

However, in many states, a plea which "admits sufficient facts" often results in the case being continued without a decision and later dismissed. A conviction under an Alford plea may be used as a conviction for later sentencing purposes. However, one state supreme court has held that an Alford plea, unlike a criminal trial, does not provide a full and fair hearing on the issues in the case, and therefore does not preclude later litigation of the issues.

In North Carolina v Alford, the Supreme Court noted that:

"An individual accused of crime may voluntarily, knowingly, and understandingly consent to the imposition of a prison sentence even if he is unwilling or unable to admit his participation in the acts constituting the crime *** when *** a defendant intelligently concludes that his interests require entry of a guilty plea and the record before the judge contains strong evidence of actual guilt"