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GUILTY PLEA WHERE DEFENDANT DENIES FACTS--ALFORD-GOULETTE PLEA - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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GUILTY PLEA WHERE DEFENDANT DENIES FACTS--ALFORD-GOULETTE PLEA

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

“AN ALFORD plea” is a guilty plea where the defendant does not admit facts to support the charge(s) he is pleading guilty to or even denies that he engaged in the behavior that the state alleges he engaged in. The defendant states that he desires to plead to guilty to take advantage of and be able to receive a sentence agreement offered by the prosecutor.

The defendant, on the record,

1. Pleads guilty,
2. Waives the right to cross examine the state's witnesses,
3. Waives the right to testify and call other witnesses,
4. Admits that the facts alleged in police reports and other investigation documents, if proven at trial, and applying the presumption of innocence and the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, would result in a verdict of guilty.
5. States that he is entering this plea of guilty to take advantage of the plea agreement offered by the prosecutor.
It is insufficient for the defendant to state, "I might be found guilty", "I probably would be found guilty" or "There is a risk that I would be found guilty" [1]

The Court has discretion as to whether or not to accept the plea. The underlying concern is that the plea must be voluntary and intelligent, and must be subjected to close scrutiny. An Alford plea may be accepted as valid only “if the court, on the basis of its interrogation of the accused and its analysis of the factual basis offered in support of the plea, concludes that the evidence would support a jury verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the plea is voluntarily, knowingly, and understandingly entered.”[2]

Within the context of an Alford plea, where the defendant is maintaining his innocence, the defendant’s acknowledgement that the State’s evidence is sufficient to convict is critical to the court’s ability to serve the protective purpose of the accuracy requirement. The best practice for ensuring this protection is to have the defendant specifically acknowledge on the record at the bench trial that the evidence the State would offer against him is sufficient for a jury, applying the presumption of innocense and the reasonable doubt and standard, to find the defendant guilty of the offense to which he is pleading guilty.[3]


QUESTIONS TO BE ASKED OF DEFENDANT IN ALFORD PLEA IN ADDITION TO WAIVER OF TRIAL RIGHTS INCLUDED IN ALL GUILTY PLEAS

  1. Have you read the police report?
  2. Do you understand that if you went to trial before a judge or a jury:
A. You would be presumed innocent
B. The state would have to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,
C. The jury's verdict would have to be unanimous, all members of the jury would have to agree that you are guilty,
D. The state would produce testimony and other evidence that you;
Did the following (include statements summarizing the evidence the state has)
E. You could call witnesses to testify for you,
F. You could testify if you wanted to,
G. You have an absolutely right not to testify, If you did not testify, no one could comment on your not testifying
  1. Do you believe that if you went to trial you would be found guilty by the jury if the jury believed the state's witnesses testifying as I just stated and didn’t believe your witnesses and you if choose to testify?
  2. Are you pleading guilty to obtain the benefit of the plea bargain offered by the prosecutor?


Note, The defendant must believe and the defendant admit that he or she would be convicted if the facts set forth were presented to a judge or jury. It is not sufficient for the defendant to state he "might be convicted," or " it is possibile that he or she would be convicted."


References:

  1. State v. Theis, 742 N.W.2d 643 Minn.,2007.
  2. State v. Goulette, 258 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1977).
  3. State v. Theis, 742 N.W.2d 643, (Minn.2007).