Plea Bargaining: Justice or Injustice?Plea bargaining could be classified as a necessary evil in the criminal justice system. Some pros for and the reason why plea bargaining is used so much, is that it does reduce the overall cost of the criminal prosecution. It does speed up the trial process. Having the trail process not last as long, prosecutors have more time for more serious cases. CITATION Sie15 l 1033 (Siegel & Worrall, 2015) For lesser, non-violent crimes, it can reduce the overall cost to the taxpayer, if the criminal does not have to go to jail or prison or receives a reduced sentence. Some people state that, having the defendant avoid possible detention and an extended trial and may receive a reduced sentence, as a pro, I would question this, I guess it is a pro for the defendant, but I would say that is a con for the victim. A plea bargain can give the prosecution an upper hand if the defendant is willing to speak out during the trial of a co-defendant.
As for the cons of plea bargaining, it can allow dangerous offenders to receive a lenient sentence. Plea bargaining can convince an innocent person to enter a guilty plea so that then can receive a lighter sentence than the possibility of receiving a harsher sentence if the case went to trial. A major con of plea bargaining is, what about the victim or the victim’s family? The prosecution only has to “confer” with a victim when it comes to plea bargaining. CITATION Sie15 l 1033 (Siegel ; Worrall, 2015)According to the Officers of the United States Attorneys’ website, plea bargaining is “When the Government has a strong case, the Government may offer the defendant a plea deal to avoid trial and perhaps reduce his exposure to a more lengthy sentence.” CITATION Off l 1033 (Offices of the United States Attorneys, n.d.) Yet, according to the textbook, “Plea bargaining frequently occurs in cases in which the government believes the evidence is weak. Bargaining permits a compromise settlement in a weak case when the outcome of a criminal trial is in doubt.” CITATION Sie15 l 1033 (Siegel & Worrall, 2015) I would speculate that both are correct. I could see the prosecution attempting a plea bargain when the case that they have is weak. I can also see that when the prosecution has a strong case against a defendant, but the prosecution wants a conviction for another defendant that the first defendant’s testimony would greatly improve the prosecution’s case against the second defendant. When the prosecution has entered the plea bargain, the defense counsel is responsible for making certain that the accused understands the nature of the plea bargaining process and the guilty plea. The judge limits his or her role to approve or disapprove the plea agreement.
Here is a story of how a plea bargain could have had a negative impact. In September of 1987, a man cut through a screen in a bedroom window, put a knife to a 12-year-old girl’s throat and raped her. A couple of months later, Dwayne Dail was asked by police to come in for questioning and to submit hair, blood and saliva samples. In May of 1988, he read in the newspaper that he had been indicted for first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense, first-degree burglary, indecent liberties with a minor and a lewd and lascivious act. Dwayne drove himself to the sheriff’s office and was arrested. Prior to his trial in March of 1989, Dwayne was offered a plea bargain to plead no contest to the misdemeanor and take three years’ probation. He turned down the plea bargain claiming that he would plead nothing but not guilty. Dwayne was convicted at trial and received to life sentences and 18 years. In August of 2007, Dwayne was told that he was going home due to the fact that the DNA evidence in the case exonerated him. CITATION Dwa09 l 1033 (Dail, 2009) If Dwayne would have accepted the plea bargain, he would have had to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life for something he did not do.
A positive outcome for plea bargaining could be someone that is caught with a small amount of marijuana. In the state of Virginia, first time possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor and the offender can receive up to 30 days of jail time and a $500 fine. A plea bargain for this crime could come out that the offender pleads guilty to a class 1 misdemeanor and only pays the fine, instead of also going to jail, wasting taxpayer money.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Dail, D. (2009, March 9). Wrongfully Convicted: One Man’s Story. Retrieved from National Institute of Justice: http://www.nij.gov/journals/262/pages/one-mans-story.aspx
Offices of the United States Attorneys. (n.d.). US Attorneys – Justice 101 – Plea Bargaining. Retrieved from United States Department of Justice: http://www.justice.gov/usao/justice-101/pleabargaining
Siegel, L. J., & Worrall, J. L. (2015). Introduction to Criminal Justice. Wadsworth Publishing.