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Court Discusses Alford Plea


The plea that is entered in a criminal case is of great importance in how the crime and the person convicted of the crime is treated in the system of jurisprudence. Some people accept plea agreements without thoroughly understanding what these agreements entail. One of the most frequently misunderstood pleas that a defendant can enter is an Alford-Serrano plea. Most courts call it an Alford plea for brevity sake. An Alford plea is a plea that a person can enter without admitting guilt to the offense. A New York Criminal Lawyer said an Alford plea is in essence a way for a defendant to state that they are innocent, but that they believe that based on the evidence, a jury would find them guilty of the offense. A person will use an Alford plea as an attempt to reduce the overall jail time.

Some of the issues that most defendants do not understand as they relate to an Alford plea is that even though the person is proclaiming their innocence, they are considered by the court just as guilty as a person who enters a regular guilty plea. There is no difference in the treatment of an Alford guilty offender, and one that pleads just plain guilt. Sometimes, especially in the case of sexually based offenses, this can pose a problem for the defendant.

In one case, which occurred in Richmond County New York, in 1994, a man took an Alford plea in the rape case of his own fifteen-year-old daughter. The child is of limited intelligence and unable to process the experience, however, it appears that when the child was around 12 or 13 years of age, during a three-month period, he had sexual relations with his daughter. A New York Criminal Lawyer said the defendant adamantly denied that he ever had sex with his daughter, however, everyone involved was concerned that the child would be overly traumatized by having to testify against her own father in court. In order to prevent her from having to endure any more trauma than she already had, her father took an Alford plea to one count of rape in the third degree. The prosecutors, the mother, and the child all firmly stand by the evidence that the father raped her. The rape had occurred approximately two years prior to the conviction under the Alford plea.

It was explained in detail to the man that under the Alford plea, he would be considered just as guilty as any other offender would. However, he maintained that because the nature of the Alford plea is that the person claims that they are not guilty, he should not be classified as a sex offender according to the Sex Offender Registration Act. The courts advised him that the Alford plea is still a guilty plea under the law. He accepted an Alford plea for a sexual offense and he will have to be registered as a legal sex offender. Further, the victim requested an HIV test be performed and the results provided to her.

Her father resisted this request. Although under New York law, the victim of a sexual assault that involves the exchange of bodily fluids has the right to request that an HIV test be performed. A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said the results of the test provide the victim with the necessary information so that she can obtain medical treatment as soon as possible if she has been exposed to the AIDS virus. Her father continued to refuse the test. One contention that he made was that it was an illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and that it is unreasonable to invade his body to take his blood. The Supreme Court disagreed with his contention.

His next objection to the test was that the test was not useful to his daughter at this date. Since the HIV test does not show the actual virus but rather the antibodies that are produced to fight the virus once it is inside the host body. These antibodies are not present in an infected person until between six months and one year following exposure to the AIDS virus. If a sexual assault victim finds out through a test that he or she has been exposed to the virus through the assault, they can order the test be performed and the results provided to them. They can then seek antibiotic therapy which may prevent the disease from forming in their bodies. However, that therapy must be started within the first six months of initial exposure. The father contends that since the assault took place two years earlier, the results of a test on him would be of no value. The better course of action would be for the daughter to be tested at such a late juncture to determine if she has the HIV Virus. The court maintained that they do not have the authority to order the victim of a sexually based assault to be tested for HIV. They do have the authority to require that the offender is tested and that the test results are provided to the victim for her ease of mind.

The father again raised the question of the application of the Alford plea and its possible relevance to the HIV test. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said he claims that if he is not guilty of the rape, it is ridiculous to require him to submit to an HIV test. The court ruled that while this was a novel concept, the Alford plea is still a guilty plea and he cannot have the best of both sides. As a guilty sex offender in the State of New York, the victim has the right to demand a test and the court has the authority to require that he submit to the test.

His next argument against submitting to the test was that his reputation would be sullied if the results of the test were to turn out positive. He stated that since his wife had put up signs in his neighborhood and the area where he worked accusing him of raping his daughter, he had no reason to believe that his HIV status would not be similarly broadcast. The court stated that while the victim has the right to request the test, and the court provides her with the test results, she is required by law to refrain from sharing the information with anyone outside of a small group established by law. She is allowed to tell her mother, family, her attorney, her doctor, and any therapist that she is seeing. She is prohibited by law from broadcasting the information or using it in any way that would affect the reputation of the offender who may have infected her with this deadly virus. With this understanding, the court again rejected the father’s motions to not be submitted to a blood test for HIV. The incidence of an Alford plea for a case such as this one proved to be unique. It is exposed the case to review in many different areas because the defendant so staunchly proclaims his not guilty status.

Stephen Bilkis & Associates has a group of experienced Queens Criminal Lawyers. They can help a defendant make a decision on how to plea and how that plea may affect him. They have convenient offices throughout New York and the Metropolitan area. A Queens sex offense lawyer is the best choice for your defense.

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