Plea bargaining is an agreement used in criminal cases to avoid a lengthy trial. Here, the prosecutor and the defendant work together to agree with each other, instead of taking the litigation to a jury. It often includes things like pleading to a lesser charge and pleading guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. It is highly common in the US, where many cases are settled through plea bargains than by trials.
This type of legal agreement enables both parties to avoid a prolonged trial under court and enables the defendant to avoid the risk of a guilty verdict at court, which can lead to a more severe sentence. Plea bargaining has been carried out as an intentional agreement that leaves the defendant and the prosecutor better off, in which the former have various procedural and substantive rights. However, if the defendant pleads accountable, he is trading his rights to a prosecutor in return for concessions that are highly respected than surrendered rights. Withal, plea bargaining has become a hot topic in debates whether it is good for the society or not. To get a good idea on this subject, let us take a look at its advantages and disadvantages.
List of Advantages of Plea Bargaining
1. It helps deal with case loads.
In plea bargaining, the state and the court are aided in dealing with case loads. Also, the process decreases the prosecutors’ work load by letting them prepare for more serious cases by leaving effortless and petty charges in order to settle through.
2. It makes trial scheduling uncongested.
For the judge, the key benefit of accepting a plea bargain agreement is that he can alleviate the need to schedule and hold the trial on a docket that is already overcrowded. Judges are also aware of overcrowding in jails, so they might be receptive to process out offenders who are unlikely to do much jail time anyway. This means cases will be closed much quicker, which is good for the society as the method de-clogs court systems for more serious cases.
3. It hastens the process of trials.
Plea bargains are a significant factor in restructuring offenders by letting them agree to the blame for their trial and by letting them voluntarily submit before the law—without having expensive and time-consuming trials.
4. It eliminates a case’s uncertainty.
From the criminal defense’s perspective, the most useful benefit of this type of agreement is its ability to remove the uncertainty of a trial. It helps defendants with making sure they will not receive more serious charges for the criminal acts filed against them.
5. It brings great possibility to find the accused guilty.
When it does happen that the prosecution is feeble or that the court wants proper witnesses or evidence, and the outcome is likely acquittal, it is possible that the prosecuting party will still find the accused guilty.
6. It prevents a case from getting worse.
When a charged individual takes a plea bargain, he will not have to go through trial. This means that some crimes, which may have been committed, and any damning evidence are not going to be discovered.
7. It does not allow maximum sentence.
One of the biggest reasons why many people opt for plea bargaining is the fact that they cannot receive maximum sentences for their crimes.
8. It may allow for aiding larger cases.
In a plea bargaining agreement, prosecutors will often roll other conditions for the defendants to testify against a co-defendant, which might help solve larger cases in a prosecution.
9. It lets the justice system breathe.
If all criminal cases should make it to a trial by jury, then our justice systems would not be able to sustain themselves. Courts will probably be backed up by months or even years.
List of Disadvantages of Plea Bargaining
1. It allows presentation of the accused with unconscionable pressure.
In a plea bargaining agreement, the prosecution can present the accused with unconscionable pressure. And even though the process is controlled, there is still a chance of it being coerced.
2. It can lead to poor case preparation and investigations.
Some judges and attorneys argue that plea bargaining has led to attorneys not taking the time to properly prepare their cases and poor police investigations. They believe that, rather than pursuing justice, the parties would rely on making a deal, where the details of what happened and their legal consequences will become less important.
3. It might be biased to the prosecution party.
Plea bargaining might allow prosecutors to take full advantage of accepting criminal acts in the weakest trials. The more beneficial will be a guilty claim for the prosecution is if the trial ends in acquittal.
4. It might charge innocent people guilty.
Even if you are innocent, but agreed to a guilty plea, you still have to pay a fine or be imprisoned for a crime you did not commit. Not only this, but you will also have a criminal record that cannot be erased.
5. It is unconstitutional.
It is argued that plea bargaining is unconstitutional, as it takes away the defense’s constitutional right to a trial by jury. If the defendant is pressured or coerced into such an agreement, then this argument may have a considerable weight. But if the defendant, at all times in the criminal case, retains his right to a trial by jury without pressure to make an agreement, then the court finds that this procedure remains constitutional.
6. It can make the justice system suffer.
Since both the defense and prosecution parties depend on their power to negotiate a deal, instead of winning a trial, the justice system might suffer.
If both parties agree on a plea bargain, then the agreement shall be stated clearly on the court record before a judge who will issue the sentence that is agreed upon. Plea bargaining can have benefits for defendants and for the society, whose interests are represented by the government prosecutor. However, it is always important that both the prosecution and defending parties carefully weigh their options before reaching an agreement through a plea bargain.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. She is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.