June 16, 2024


Law for politics

Pleading Guilty In Washington State – There’s More Than One Way To Go

If you are accused of a crime in Washington State, one choice for resolving the case is pleading guilty. But not all guilty pleas are the same. In fact, Washington State recognizes at least five possible ways to plead guilty on a criminal case.

Alford Plea

If you do not believe you are guilty, but you’re concerned that a Jury is going to find you guilty anyway then the Alford Plea might be right for you. In this form of pleading guilty, you state up front that you do not believe you are in fact guilty but you are going to plead guilty anyway because you want to take advantage of the Prosecutor’s Sentencing Recommendation. You must also state that you believe there is a substantial possibility that a Judge or Jury would find you guilty should the matter go to trial. On your criminal record, there is no difference between a “Straight” plea and an “Alford” plea; both simply show “G” for guilty. With this type of guilty plea, however, you never have to admit that you did something when you didn’t.

Straight Plea

A Straight Plea is just like it sounds. You admit to engaging in criminal behavior and you plead guilty to the crime as charged.

Deferred Sentence

Sometimes, a non-felony crime can have a Deferred Sentence. This means that you are found guilty of the crime and sentenced accordingly. However, at the end of the sentence (typically one to two years) then the conviction comes off your criminal record and is replaced by a dismissal.

Stipulated Order of Continuance / Pretrial Diversion Agreement

This is a less common scenario. In this case, you agree in writing to do (or not do) certain activities, like consuming alcohol or engaging in future law violations, for an agreed upon term (like a year or two). If you comply with your agreement, then at the end of the Stipulated Order of Continuance, the Prosecutor agrees to reduce the charge to an agreed upon lesser charge, e.g. DUI gets dropped down to a Negligent Driving in the First Degree.

Informal Agreements

Sometimes, a Prosecutor will make an agreement with a Defendant that if the Defendant performs some action, like stay out of trouble for six months or perform Community Service, then the Prosecutor will amend the criminal charge to a less serious one. This informal agreement is very similar to a Stipulated Order of Continuance (SOC) but unlike an SOC this agreement is not in writing.


The number of options for resolving a criminal case increases dramatically based on the skill and experience of both the prosecutor and the defense attorney. Unfortunately, not all attorneys are skillful at negotiating resolutions. Going through this list of possible ways to plead guilty will ensure that every possible avenue has been pursued.