Legal Law

Pleading Guilty in Washington State: There’s More Than One Way to Go

If you are charged with a crime in Washington state, one option to settle the case is to plead guilty. But not all guilty pleas are the same. In fact, Washington state recognizes at least five possible ways to plead guilty in a criminal case.

alford’s plea

If you don’t think you are guilty, but are worried that a jury will find you guilty anyway, then the Alford guilty plea might be right for you. In this form of pleading guilty, he states in advance that he does not believe he is actually guilty, but that he will plead guilty anyway because he wants 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 will find you guilty if the matter goes to trial. On your criminal record, there is no difference between a “Straight” plea and an “Alford” plea; both simply show “G” for guilty. However, with this type of guilty plea, you never have to admit that you did something when you didn’t.

straight plea

A direct plea is just as it sounds. He admits to criminal behavior and pleads guilty to the crime of which he is charged.

deferred sentencing

Sometimes a crime that is not a felony may have deferred sentencing. This means that you are found guilty of the crime and sentenced accordingly. However, at the end of the sentence (usually one to two years), the conviction is removed from your criminal record and replaced with a dismissal.

Stipulated Order of Continuation/Pretrial Diversion Agreement

This is a less common scenario. In this case, you agree in writing to do (or not do) certain activities, such as consuming alcohol or engaging in future violations of the law, for an agreed period of time (such as one or two years). If you abide by your agreement, at the end of the stipulated continuation order, the prosecutor agrees to reduce the charge to an agreed lesser charge, for example, DUI is reduced to first degree reckless driving.

Informal Agreements

Sometimes, a Prosecutor will make an agreement with a Defendant that if the Defendant takes some action, such as staying out of trouble for six months or performing Community Service, then the Prosecutor will modify the criminal charge to a less serious one. This informal agreement is very similar to a Stipulated Order to Continue (SOC), but unlike a 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 trained to negotiate settlements. Reviewing this list of possible ways to plead guilty will ensure that all possible avenues have been pursued.

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