An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt. A defendant entering an Alford plea agrees to be found guilty without admitting he or she committed the crime. The defendant acknowledges there is enough evidence against him or her to be convicted. It is often entered to avoid a greater penalty and is treated as a guilty plea.
The term originated with the United States Supreme Court's decision in North Carolina v. Alford in 1971, where the Supreme Court held that guilty pleas linked with claims of innocence may be accepted provided the "defendant intelligently concludes that his interests require entry of a guilty plea and the record before the judge contains strong evidence of actual guilt."
All pleas, including an Alford plea, must meet the general requirement that the defendant knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his or her right to trial.
Alford pleas make up a small percentage of all plea bargains in the U.S., as some jurisdictions outside of Ohio do not accept this type of plea bargain.
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