Is plea bargaining necessary? When more than 90 percent of criminal convictions come from negotiated pleas, there is bound to be disagreement.
Read on to discover potential perspectives among members of the criminal justice system and the pros and cons of plea bargains.
Advantages for Court Personnel
Plea bargains alleviate the court system, a crucial advantage for court personnel. More specifically, plea agreements reduce the need to schedule and hold a jury trial on an already overcrowded docket/court calendar. Plea bargaining can also help prevent prison overcrowding.
For prosecutors, a lightened caseload is a significant boon. Plea bargaining assures a conviction, albeit for a lesser charge or less time in jail.
Moreover, prosecutors may use plea bargaining to further their case against a co-defendant. They may accept a plea bargain arrangement from one defendant in return for damaging testimony against another. This way, they are assured of at least one conviction for the original charge. The benefit of a conviction often compensates for handing out a reduced sentence.
Advantages of Accepting a Plea Bargain for Defendants
For a defendant in a criminal case, plea bargaining provides the opportunity for a more lenient sentence than if convicted at trial. Plea bargaining can also ensure fewer offenses listed on a criminal record.
There's a natural tendency to want to trade risk for certainty. Many will long for assurance if represented by an overworked public defender with little time to devote to their case. Therein lies the source of one criticism of the plea bargaining system. Some criminal defendants may feel compelled to pick the lighter sentence instead of asserting their constitutional right to a fair trial. Less jail time or reduced charges may convince them to accept the deal.
Evaluating Plea Bargain Advantages and Disadvantages
The decision of whether to accept a plea bargain is a challenging one. It will depend on your case's facts, finances, criminal history, and other factors. It also depends on what is being offered.
Consider the potential benefits of plea bargaining. If you're a licensed professional, your license may be revoked after a felony conviction. However, pleading for a misdemeanor charge may guarantee your ability to maintain that license.
One of the disadvantages of plea bargaining is that it opens the possibility for innocent people to plead guilty to an inaccurate charge. They may see a plea deal as the safer path to avoid the risk of a trial. Some defendants enter a plea of "no contest" to accept a plea bargain without admitting guilt. Additionally, low-income defendants often lack the funds for a more robust defense. Innocent defendants should not be coerced.
Another downside is that plea deals can create a lack of true justice for victims and their families. Many problems are created for victims, their families, and society when guilty defendants are expected to serve the maximum sentence for crimes but receive lesser sentences before being released back into the public. The reality of recidivism is at play here as well. Recidivism cannot be ignored when over 60 percent of violent offenders recidivate.
Discuss a Plea Bargain With a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Are you considering a plea bargain agreement for your criminal trial? You owe it to yourself to get an expert's opinion on such an important moment in your life. An experienced criminal defense attorney can answer all of your plea bargain questions. Call a private attorney today for more information on the plea bargaining process.