Plea-bargaining is a standard procedure in courts. In a plea bargain, the Prosecutor makes an agreement with the defendant through the defense attorney. Generally, the Prosecutor will make some concessions to the defendant, like dropping some charges or reducing the sentence. In exchange, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to either a lesser crime or the original crime.
While plea-bargaining has many advantages, it also has some severe disadvantages. Here is a look at the pros and cons of a plea bargain.
The Pros of Plea Bargaining
1. Plea Bargains Relieve Some Of the Case Load for the Prosecutor: Many prosecutors have a huge pile of cases that they need to prepare for trial. They often don’t feel as though they have enough time to properly prepare all the cases as thoroughly as they should be prepared to go to trial. A plea bargain reduces the Prosecutor’s caseload so that the Prosecutor has more time to prepare for some of their other cases.
2. Plea Bargains Help to Relieve Court Congestion: Court dockets are often full, and every trial takes up some of the court’s time, sometimes several days or weeks, whereas a plea bargain takes typically only an hour or less. This means that the court saves time for eery plea bargain it hears.
3. Saves the State Time and Money: Trials cost money, and the longer a trial goes on, the more money it costs. A plea-bargain saves the state both time and money.
4. Plea Bargains Eliminates Case Uncertainty: When a case goes to the trial, it can end in three ways with a guilty verdict, with a not guilty verdict, or with a mistrial or hung verdict. Neither the defense nor the prosecution knows what the end result of a trial will be. A plea bargain takes away the question of how a trial will end.
5. Plea Bargains Can Save Those Charged with a Crime from Receiving the Maximum Sentence: Defendants who are charged with a serious crime and are concerned about being convicted will agree to a plea bargain to get a lesser sentence. As a result, they can spend less time incarcerated and avoid worse circumstances like facing the death penalty.
Cons of Plea Bargains
1. Victims of a Crime May Feel as Though They Do Not Get the Justice They Deserve: When the victim of a severe crime sees someone get a lesser sentence, they can feel as though what happened to them is unimportant.
2. Plea Bargains May Pressure Innocent People Into Pleading Guilty: When prosecutors charge an innocent person with a crime, they are frightened, particularly if they are a young defendant. People feel pressured to accept a plea bargain to avoid getting a lengthy sentence that could ruin their entire life. This pressure can result in an innocent person having a criminal record and the person who is truly guilty of the crime going free.
3. Plea Bargains Result in Lazy Investigations: Because so many crimes result in plea bargains, many police officers and prosecutors do not adequately prepare for the case. As a result, they miss substantial evidence that could lead to more severe charges or ruin the case so badly that a violent criminal walks free.
While plea bargains can be beneficial to both the prosecution and the defendant, both parties should thoughtfully weigh the pros and cons of what a plea bargain can mean in the long term before a plea bargain is made or accepted.