Copyright (c) 2006 Ohio Northern University Law Review
Ohio Northern University Law Review
COMMENT: The Alford Plea in Juvenile Court
32 Ohio N.U.L. Rev. 187
by Peg Schultz
Plea bargaining today is a pragmatic alternative to trial, a process in which the courts purchase efficient use of limited judicial resources and certainty of punishment for confessed criminals with the coin of milder penalties negotiated between the defense and the prosecution. Nowhere does this character of compromise display itself in sharper relief than in the Alford plea, namesake of North Carolina v. Alford, 1 where a defendant is permitted to enter a plea of guilty for sentencing purposes while still proclaiming actual innocence. 2 Juvenile courts are divided on whether they permit an Alford plea to be entered by youthful offenders. The juvenile court system is historically dedicated not to punishment but to rehabilitation. 3 For this reason, some courts consider the Alford plea inimical to rehabilitation philosophy, which requires that one admit to the bad behavior in order that it may be corrected. 4 Other courts reason, on the basis of In re Gault, 5 that procedural protections, including all the plea options that are available to adults, must be equally available to juvenile defendants. 6 This paper seeks to examine the way in which the preference for rehabilitative intent or procedural parity influences the court's judgment by reviewing the relevant history of the Alford plea and the juvenile court, the pros and cons of the Alford plea in general, and the reasoning of various decisions that embrace or reject the Alford plea for juveniles in the context of the idiosyncrasies of ...
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