Cop a Plea?
In many circles of the criminal justice arena, plea bargains are quite controversial. A plea bargain is a guaranteed conviction for the prosecution and a way for criminals to be punished less severely than the mandated penalty for the crime they commit. It begs the question, "why even have laws and mandated penalties if they can, and most of the time are, changed to make it easier for the system as a whole?"
For many defendants a plea bargain can seem like a good deal when the evidence seems to stack highly against them. I mean, who wouldn't take less time when they know they are dead to rights. The other side of the coin is the fact that dangerous criminals who break the laws are going to be on the street much sooner because of the plea bargain system. They will more than likely commit another crime and once again go through the system and one must wonder with recidivism the way it is does plea bargains really save the courts that much time?
Plea bargains may not always be in the best interest of suspects.
"Some experts say the process has become coercive in many state and federal jurisdictions, forcing defendants to weigh their options based on the relative risks of facing a judge and jury rather than simple matters of guilt or innocence."
- The New York Times
Some facts about plea bargaining: Roughly 90% of all cases end in plea bargaining which means that the trial by jury system that America is so proud of was never used.(heinonline.com)
The overall question of this blog is who does plea bargaining help and who does it hurt? Prosecutors trump up charges to scare suspects into taking lesser pleas. One would have to imagine that innocent people have taken plea bargains because the punishment from the bargain was far less than the potential punishment if they were found guilty. It also helps the United States overworked system. Without plea bargains it would be impossible for cases to be heard in a timely manner. Prosecutors and public defenders both have ridiculous case loads and the use of plea bargaining helps them do their job. Criminals get lesser sentences which is an obvious plus.
Even with all the so called benefits I believe plea bargaining undermines the American Justice System. How is one to put faith in a system that contradicts it's very self? Plea bargains will stay around for a while and create many controversial issues along the way. In the end, it is an imperfect fix for an imperfect system.