Plea Bargaining Essay Research Paper The most

Plea Bargaining Essay, Research Paper The most common arguement offered on behalf of plea bargaining is that it lifts theburden of heavy caseloads from the shoulders of the courts. By ensuring that

Plea Bargaining Essay, Research Paper

The most common arguement offered on behalf of plea bargaining is that it

lifts theburden of heavy caseloads from the shoulders of the courts. By ensuring that

most criminaldefendants enter a plea of guilty, plea bargaining eliminates the need for

time-consuming trialprocedures. Harold J. Rothwax, a Manhattan judge said, "We go to plea

bargaining out ofnecessity, not out of desire. It is inescapable." Criminal defendants

charged with felonies couldcompletely overcome the court system if they coordinated their efforts.

"If even half of the 90%of the defendants who now plead guilty should request trial, the judicial

system would breakdown from overload", said B.J. George Jr. Although society would

certainly respond to asubstantially overburdened court system by allotting more resources to it,

such s responce wouldlikely be slow.Proponents of plea bargaining argue that it allows the accused to have a

greater degree ofautonomy over the results of their cases. Unlike a system without a plea

bargaining, in which adefendant either pleads guilty without meeting with the prosecutor or pleads

innocent and thengoes through the trial process, plea bargaining allows the defendant the

intermediate option ofpleading guilty to avoid a harsh penalty. This arguement sees plea bargaining

as an extra checkin the criminal justice system to ensure that the autonomy and liberty of the

accused is respectedby the state. Plea bargaining also protects innocent defendants from the

possibility of harshsanctions. Unfortunate innocent defendants who realize that the case them

against them is toooverwhelming to gain leniency from the judge or to win acquittal from a jury

may view pleabargaining as an attractive alternative to trial. Without plea bargaining,

many of these innocentdefendants would be found guilty and sentenced. Of course, plea bargaining

does not violateone’s right to trial, as defendants always have the option to plead not

guilty and be tried by ajury. Proponents of plea bargaining point out that prosecutors do not force

anyone to pleabargain.Although plea bargaining is not perfect, the pressures placed on the court

system make itthe best way to promote justice. Critics of the practice tend to focus only

on the relativelyinsignificant number of cases where plea bargaining results in injustice.

When evaluating theeffectiveness of plea bargaining in promoting justice, it is important to

focus equally on itsstrengths. In most cases, plea bargaining is a fair and efficient way to deal

with cases. Mostguilty defendants will be convicted with or without plea bargaining, and most

innocentdefendants will be acquitted. Therefore, plea bargaining is usually an

acceptable and moreefficient alternative to trial. One important positive effect that plea

bargaining has on thecriminal justice system is that it preserves the seriousness of the innocent

plea. With pleabargaining, innocent pleas are few and far between, making the judge and

attorneys moreattentive during trials. Without plea bargaining, guilty defendants have less

of an incentive toplead guilty and more of an incentive to go to trial. With more trials to

attend to, and with mostdefendants being ultimately found guilty, the cases of the few innocent

defendants who needtrials the most might not recieve the proper amount of attention from judges

or attorneys.The efficiency excuse can only be used by the most overburdened courts.

Prosecutorsworking in rural areas with relatively low caseloads use plea bargaining just

as prosecutors whowork in major cities. Additionally, plea bargaining was used decades ago,

when courts in generalwere not as overburdened as they are today. These observations, according to

opponents of pleabargaining, suggest that necessity is not the only explanation for the

widespread use of thepractice. An alternative explanation not cited by plea bargaining proponents

is that the practicelifts burdens not only from the courts, but from the shoulders of the judges

and attorneys whowork within them. Attorneys and judges realize that the trials require

significantly more personaleffort and time than plea bargaining. When the court has heard all of the

cases on the docket, thejudge and public attorneys are free to spend their time outside of the

courtroom. Thus, theincentives for public attorneys and judges to use plea bargaining are often

personal. In light ofthis observation, the often cited efficiency excuse does not seem valid. As

one scholar wiselyobserved, "regardless of the caseload, there will always be too many

cases for many of theparticipants in the system, since most of them have a strong interest in

being some place otherthan court.Plea bargaining presents a substantial threat to the liberties of the

accused, especiallythose who are innocent. Prosecutors bargain with the harshest sentence that

they think thedefendant will accept in exchange for a guilty plea. Indeed, because judges

tend to sentenceconvicted defendants who plead innocent with much harsher penalties than

defendants whoplead guilty. Defendants who are clearly guilty would probably be better off

pleading guiltyeven without a plea bargain. On the other hand, a prosecutor will offer more

substantialconcessions to innocent defendants who would have relatively high chances of

acquittal if theircases were to go to trial. Thus, plea bargaining allows the prosecutor to

ensure that innocentdefendants will be just as likely as guilty defendants to plead guilty to

some charge.Plea bargaining violates many basic principles upon which our criminal

justice systemrests. One of these principles is that it is better to let ten guilty persons

go free than it is toconvict one innocent person. Plea bargaining attempts to ensure that everyone

is convicted,albeit with a lighter sentence than if he or she had been found guilty in

trial. For the innocent,conviction is clearly an injustice, but the injustice of convicting the

criminal through pleabargaining is often overlooked. By ensuring that criminals recieve lighter

sanctions, pleabargaining represents an injustice to society. If the criminal justice system

is viewed as a systemwith the end of protecting citizens, plea bargaining and its leniency toward

guilty defendantsthreatens to undermine the system by depriving it of the ability to deter

crime and reform theoffenders. While the doctrine of letting ten innocent defendants go free is

not written in theConstitution, the doctrine that no person "shall be compelled in any

criminal case to be a witnessagainst himself" is This Fifth Amendment right is violated by plea

bargaining, in which theguilty plea, in light of the possibility of more lenient sanctions, is

compelling. If oneincriminates oneself by pleading guilty, the plea bargain violates the Fifth

Amendment.Unfortunately, the Supreme Court made an exception for plea bargaining in

North Carolina v.Alford, in which it held that Alford, who would have pled innocent to murder

had in not been forplea bargaining, was bound to his plea bargain. Alford’s testimony reveals

that he was indeedcompelled to plead guilty, thus incriminating himself: "I pleaded guilty

on second degree murderbecause they said there is too much evidence, but I ain’t shot no man, but I

take the fault for theother man. We never had an arguement in our life and I just pleaded guilty

because they said if Ididn’t they would gas me for it, and that is all." Finally, plea

bargaining violates the principlethat guilt or innocence should only be determined by those deemed fit to do

so. In our society,only judges and fairly selected juries enjoy that status.Plea bargaining

takes already difficultdecisions out of the hands of qualified and socially sanctioned individuals

and places them in thehands of attorneys, who are then subjected to "serious financial and

other temptations todisregard their clients interests", said A.W. Alschuler. Moreover, by

making attorneys viewthemselves as "judges and administrators rather than as advocates",

plea bargaining transformsreal judges into ineffective figureheads who cannot fulfill the role expected

of them by thosewho appointed them.