Troubling Virginia Case Allows "Legal Fiction Plea"
The issue before this Court is whether a criminal defendant may knowingly plead guilty to a crime that he factually did not commit, and whether the Court can convict him based on such a plea. This Court refers to such pleas as "legal fiction pleas," and holds that a defendant may enter such a plea as part of a plea agreement to avoid a potential conviction of a more serious crime or imposition of a worse sentence. As long as a defendant fully understands that he could not otherwise be convicted of the lesser crime and asserts that he is entering the plea nonetheless for his own perceived benefit, courts should accept such pleas.
Can a defendant plead guilty to a crime that he factually could not have committed with his eyes wide open to take advantage of a favorable disposition? This Court concludes that a defendant may plead guilty to a crime he never committed under these circumstances. ... This conclusion is unsurprising when one considers a similar, counterintuitive form of a guilty plea - the Alford plea.