According to Cornell University Law School” (2010), “plea bargains are agreements between defendants and prosecutors where defendants agree to plead guilty to some or all of the charges against them in exchange for concessions from the prosecutors” (para. 1). Plea bargains allows for prosecutors and judges to focus their time on more important cases. The way plea-bargains work with prosecutors is reducing or dismissing certain crimes committed by the defendant. The defendants part in a plea bargain is to give up information about the crimes committed, such as where were stolen goods are hid and how the crime was committed. The defendant may also have to confess to other crimes, turn in other defendants, and testify in court.
In some jurisdictions prosecutors and defendants work with judges to work out a sentence for the crime committed. The judge always has the last say and rules on what he or she wants, but in federal courts, unlike other courts the judge does not have to take recommendations from the prosecution. Plea bargains have become somewhat controversial among society. Individuals believe that plea bargains allow criminals to get off easy with the crimes they committed. Just because a defendant is willing to confess about his or her crimes, it does not erase the harm and inconvenience it has caused the innocent individuals involved. Therefore, a defendant can only plead guilty to a crime and cannot plead or try to prove their innocence.
Charge bargaining and sentence bargaining are a type of plea bargain. Charge bargaining involves the defendant plea guilty to a specific crime in exchange to lessen the severity of the crime against him. The defense presents the charge bargain to the prosecution, which they decide whether or not they will accept it. A good example is if an individual is charged with first-degree murder his defense can charge bargain to reduce charges to manslaughter. Another example is a person who is caught drinking and driving and with a suspended license, might be allowed to plea guilty, and charged with just drinking and driving instead of both offenses. Those are two of the most common plea bargains. The court usually allows plea bargains when the individual who is charged has a clean record.
The court also likes to take plea bargains as it frees up time from judges and prosecutors. Sentence bargain is when a defendant pleads guilty to a predetermined sentence lessened in severity and will have to serve less time in jail or prison. This type of plea is usually done when a defendant is charged with a long or harsh sentence. Prosecutors facing cases that will become public in the news will sentence bargain so they seem to be accepting a guilty plea for a serious crime. However, behind the scene the defendant has already plead guilty to lesser charge. Flynn (2008), “for example, in a tax case, the defendant might plead to a more serious form of tax evasion, but will serve a shorter sentence than he might have faced had he been convicted by a jury of a lesser tax crime” (para. 7).
There are both disadvantages and advantages in plea bargains, however; there are more advantages that benefit the criminal justice system. Plea bargains help free up time for prosecutors with heavy caseloads. At times district attorneys do not have enough resources or evidence to convict a defendant. Therefore, cases that do not look to be successful of a guilty conviction are opt-out to plea bargains. Defense attorneys also favor plea bargains, as they are also limited on resources and evidence. This allows defense attorneys to quickly reach a verdict and continue onto cases that stand a better chance in court. Plea bargains take less than half of the time a full trial case would, thus allowing the court to free up judicial resources. “The prosecution also favors plea bargains because it allows the courtroom workgroup to further its mutual interest in avoiding conflict, reducing uncertainty, and maintaining group cohesion” (Siegel, Schmalleger, & Worrall, 2011, Chapter 12). Victims also favor plea bargains as it quickly leads to guilty verdict, and the case being closed.
Disadvantages of plea bargains include, defendants losing their chance at an acquittal, loss of important rights, including the right to a trial by jury (Siegel, Schmalleger, & Worrall, Chapter 12, 2011). Critics believe that plea-bargaining undermines the criminal justice system. It undermines due process and proof presented during a trial. Critics also believe that plea bargains allows for criminals to get off free with crimes. Almost as if criminals can commit crimes and negotiate their way out of it. In most instances the public believes that these crimes committed deserve a harsh punishment and should not be lessened. Plea bargains have also pressured innocent people to plead guilty. The case of, North Carolina v. Alford, a man pleaded guilty to shooting another man based on the amount of evidence the prosecution supposedly had. In reality the man was intimidated and told if he did not plea guilty he would be gassed to death (Siegel, Schmalleger, & Worrall, Chapter 12, 2011).
Plea-bargaining thwarts both crime control and due process, 85% of felonies convictions are done through plea bargains. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges prefer plea bargains. They are a way of quickly reaching a verdict and not wasting judicial resources. However, most of the criminals that commit crimes are aware of plea bargains and are good at negotiating a sentence. This shows that criminals can get away with crimes and not be punished to the extent they deserve. Allowing this to happen lets criminals serve a lessened sentence and in due time be back out on the street committing crimes again. Due process in certain plea bargains are violated. When an individual pleads guilty in a plea bargain they give up their right to a jury trial. There have been times were innocent individuals have been convicted guilty by intimidation of evidence brought forward by prosecutors. Had these individuals seen a jury trial they would have been acquitted because the evidence clearly would not have been present or strong enough.
Cornell University Law School. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/plea_bargain Flynn, M. W. (2008). Legallad. Retrieved from http://legallad.quickanddirtytips.com/plea-bargains.aspx Siegel, L. J., Schmalleger, F., & Worrall, J. L. (2011). Courts and Criminal Justice in America. Retrieved from https://ecampus.phoenix.edu/content/eBookLibrary2/content/TOC.aspx?assetdatai