If you want to maintain your innocence, but take advantage of a plea offer from the prosecution, then an Alford plea may be for you. This differs from a Norgaard plea, which is when a defendant is unable to recall what happened, but believes they will lose at trial based on the evidence the prosecution has against them.
Alford pleas are not your typical plea. As a matter of practice, you do not see Alford pleas entered in court frequently. Often, they occur on the eve of trial when the parties want to come to a resolution, but the defendant really wants to maintain their innocence. Often, a defendant who is maintaining their innocence will decide to have their trial. The Sixth Amendment in the United States Constitution and Article I, Section IV of the Minnesota Constitution provide a right to trial. If someone truly believes they are innocent, then they should strongly consider going to trial in their case. A thorough conversation with your lawyer about this should occur before making a final decision. But, if the risks of going to trial are so great and you want to take advantage of a favorable plea offer, then consider an Alford plea.
In Minnesota, most courts will follow an explicit series of steps when taking an Alford plea. These include putting on the record the following:
- That the defendant is entering an Alford plea;
- The defendant understands what an Alford plea is;
- The defendant has reviewed the police reports, complaint, audio / video evidence, and any other discovery in the prosecutor’s file;
- The prosecution would call witnesses that would testify consistently with what is contained in their discovery, which establishes the elements of the offense;
- The defendant agrees that the evidence the prosecution would present at trial is sufficient for a jury to find them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; and
- The defendant is entering the plea to get the benefit of the plea bargain from the prosecution.
If the above bullet points are followed, then the judge presiding over the hearing is likely going to accept the plea. Importantly, the judge must be open to taking the Alford plea from the outset. Even though the law allows for Alford pleas, there are some judges that are reluctant to take them or will refuse to do so. If the judge does accept the plea, then your case should proceed to sentencing. Sometimes, sentencing occurs on the same day as the plea. In others, sentencing is heard at a later date.
Alford pleas seem to happen more often in assault cases. Because assault matters have an alleged perpetrator and victim, instead of a DWI or drug possession case where it is often the police and the defendant involved, it appears people would rather maintain their innocence when another person they know is alleging them of doing something wrong. But, they still wish to accept the benefit of a plea bargain without risking trial.
For an initial consultation at no charge, please contact Ambrose Law Firm, PLLC. You can call or text us at 612-547-3199 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.