Plea bargaining refers to case settlement that involves an arranged agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant. Along with possible conditions, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to some crime and not vice versa. These conditions may include benefits relating to punishment, dismissal of some charges or termination of a sentence. For a plea to hold, the accused must meet their part of the deal. Therefore, plea bargaining is different from civil law and requires separate treatment (Bibas, 2004). The most common forms of plea-bargaining are charge bargaining and sentence bargaining. Charge bargaining is the negotiation with the prosecutor for reduced charges or the severity of the criminal charges. Sentence bargaining is the process of negotiating for a favorable sentence directly with a judge (Turner, 2006).
This paper will analyze both merits and demerits of a plea bargain to the defendant, prosecution and the victims. First, a plea bargain helps save time and costs related to the trial and the defendant saves on legal fees (Feeler, 1979). If the court eliminate jail time, an individual can get back to work immediately, this avoids continued lose on income.
A defendant faced with multiple charges can end up spending many years behind bars. However, if they enter into a plea bargain their sentence could be reduced and in some cases even terminated. Fines could also be eliminated or reduced when a defendant cuts a deal with the prosecutor. By plea-bargaining, an individual avoids a trial; therefore, reduces his anxiety and tension. This is also advantageous to the defendants’ family and the victims because time-consuming trials can be a traumatic and stressful experience. The victims do not face the inconveniences of testifying while the prosecution need not worry of a possible acquittal.
Plea-bargaining also helps to avoid publicity considering trials are public records. Trials display to everyone the private and personal life of the defendant, which can be embarrassing and humiliating. Therefore, entering into a plea bargain helps to avoid any adverse or wanting situations. Plea bargaining has several disadvantages as shown herein. Plea bargain depends on the court decision and denies the defendant a right to appeal or challenge the sentence. Once the accused have signed the paperwork, they have officially accepted guilt regarding the crimes.
Plea bargaining could also be disadvantageous to innocent defendants. An individual may accept a plea bargain due to fear of conviction. It may even be used to coerce people into confession of crimes they did not commit. From these merits and demerits, it is necessary to analyse them carefully and legal help when faced with plea-bargain.
Operation of criminal justice relies on two main models-the crime control model and the due process model as indicated by Herbert Packer (1968). These two models conflict and compromise, hence they are always in competition. Crime control models concentrate on control of individual behaviors, and its operation borrows from a presumption of guilt. Crime control models primary focus is the achievement of efficiency in the process of criminal justice. Plea bargaining increases efficiency in crime control. Plea bargains are efficient because they can be administered and accepted in a relatively short time. This strategy focuses on the similar mechanism consequently it handles all cases uniformly. Lack of appeals in plea bargaining ensures that a decision cannot be challenged making it the most appropriate method of achieving efficiency. Presumption of guilt in crime control model is not always accurate and goes against the principle of consideration of innocence until proven guilty.
This paper finding does not support this system based on just punishment, rights and exercise of fairness. The process of allowing guilty criminals to plea bargain for lighter sentences is unjust especially where lenient punishments are administered. Plea-bargaining also leaves room for innocent people to admit guilt for crimes they did not commit. This system is unfair as it allows defendants to forfeit their right to trial. It also diminishes the public respect for the judicial system by allowing criminals to defeat justice. Therefore, it is necessary to reconsider trials as its alternative.
Bibas, S. (2004). ‘Plea bargaining outside the shadows of trial’,
Harvard Law Review 117, 2463-2547
Feeley, Malcolm M. (1979). The Process is the Punishment. New York:
Russell Sage Foundation
Packer L. (1968). The limits of criminal Sanction. Stanford University Press