A straight guilty plea is where the person charged with an offense simply admits that he or she committed the offense charged. They are admitting the truth of the allegation. For example, if a person is charged with a Criminal Trespass Second Degree (entering or remaining on property without permission) and they are making a straight guilty plea, that person is admitting that they entered or remained on someone else's property without permission.
An Alford plea is a guilty plea entered by a defendant in connection with a plea bargain without actually admitting guilt. The defendant maintains their innocence but acknowledges that if the case were to go to trial, there is a strong likelihood the evidence produced by the prosecution would persuade a jury to find the defendant guilty.
It is usually stated either in the defendant's statement on plea of guilty or just verbally on the record that he or she is pleading guilty pursuant to the case of North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 37, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970) and that they making the plea to take advantage of the prosecution's offer.
Other than making the above statements on the record or the plea paperwork, the defendant is sentenced the same way as a straight plea and the conviction is noted on their criminal history just like a straight plea and counts the same towards criminal history in the future should the defendant be convicted of something else later on.
A Newton plea is basically the Washington State equivalent of the Alford plea. Newton was a defendant in Washington in 1973, who entered a plea of guilty to second degree murder (amended down from first degree) but maintained his innocence. When the court sentenced him to life in prison, he appealed for post conviction relief. He argued his conviction should be overturned because there was no admission of guilt. The Washington State Supreme Court held that the trial court could find a factual basis to support a plea of guilty based on other reliable sources other than an admission from a defendant.
In Re Barr Plea
Sometimes a defendant chooses to plead to a related lesser charge that was not actually committed in order to avoid certain conviction for a greater offense. This was the fact in the Washington State case of In Re Barr, 102 Wn.2d 265, 684 P.2d 712 (1984). Barr pled guilty to an indecent liberties charge to avoid conviction on two counts of statutory rape and so that he could attempt to obtain sentencing that involved treatment for sexual psychopathy. He acknowledged that had the case gone to trial, he probably would have been convicted of the original charges. The court held when the record establishes a factual basis for the original charge and reveals defendant's understanding of his complicity in that crime, the failure to state a basis for all the elements of the offense substituted for the original charge will not preclude a finding that the plea to the substituted charge is voluntary and intelligent. That is why one may plead to a crime that was not actually committed.
Pleading guilty to a crime is a very important decision. A person contemplating pleading guilty should discuss the decision with his or her attorney thoroughly so that all of their questions are answered and so that they can make a fully informed decision as to whether pleading guilty is the best option and if it is, which plea should they make.
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