Plea bargaining is extremely popular in our criminal justice system. In fact, 90 percent of all criminal cases are negotiated through plea bargains. The defendant, the victim, law enforcement officials, the prosecutor, and the state, all benefit in various and significant ways from plea bargains. In this paper I will discuss how plea bargaining ensures that the criminal justice system is not overrun by criminal cases. I will also explain what plea bargaining means and where it originated from. As a police officer, I think plea bargaining is a great tool for it to be used in the criminal justice system.
Many people hear the words “plea bargain” and never really understand what it means. According to the Dictionary of Legal Terms, a plea bargain is “the process whereby the accused and the prosecutor negotiate a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case.” There are two types of plea bargains, the charge bargain and the sentence bargain. For a charge bargain, the prosecutor agrees to either charge the defendant with a lesser offense or drop some of the charges altogether. For a sentence bargain, the prosecutor recommends a less severe sentence than the penalties typically associated with the offense, and the defendant knows this sentence ahead of time before pleading guilty. Finally, a plea bargain must always be approved by a judge. The validity of a plea bargain was brought up in the case of Santobello v. New York in 1971. The defendant accused the prosecutor of breaching their agreement by recommending a more severe punishment than what they specified in the terms of the agreement. In this case, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the defendant. The Court held that in order for the plea bargain to be legally valid, both the prosecutor and the defendant must comply with the terms of the agreement. The roots of plea bargaining can be traced back to the seventeenth century in England, however the process was not as straight forward as it is now. In the nineteenth century, plea bargaining was still a relatively new option, and it was rarely used in the legal system. This was mostly because there were over 200 offences on the books that carried the death penalty. Thus, there was no incentive for the defendant to consider plea bargaining as a viable option, because if the local king or magistrate did not accept the information, then the defendant had already pled guilty and would most likely be killed. In today’s world, plea bargaining has streamlined the legal system to enable it to process more cases. There are far too many crimes committed in the United States each day. Without the availability of plea bargaining, the already overcrowded prisons would be even worse. If you look at the way our legal system was built it was not prepared to handle as many cases that are currently in the system. For defendants, some of the most common advantages of plea bargaining are lesser jail time, no jail time, a reduced fine, and reduced charges. For example, a man in the Riverdale Park Maryland area was charged with ten counts of burglary. Whenever it rained, he went out and broke in to all the sheds in the neighborhood. He was caught and confessed to all the burglaries in a written statement. The District Attorney offered to drop all the charges to two counts of burglary if the defendant pled guilty right away. The defendant took the deal because his sentence was shorter and he was eligible for parole earlier than if he were convicted on every charge at trial. That process saved the state and the police department a lot of money. If the case had gone to trial, it would have lasted for over a year. The state and the county saved time and money because they did not have to commit their resources to the case. The police department did not have to pay overtime to the officers involved. Although, some officers who seek overtime pay may not see this as a benefit. Other...
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