17 February 2012
Plea Bargaining and Its Effects on Society
A boy named Tyler, age fifteen, was arrested for robbery. He had no alibi and the defendants can tie him to the scene of the crime by a Nike Shock size eleven shoe print. To get a lesser sentence he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. Now instead of being sent to a Juvenile Detention Center he has to serve probation for a year and the charge will be expunged when he turns eighteen. A few months later after this boy pleads guilty new evidence was released proving his innocence. Although proof of his innocence arose he still had to serve probation because he had already pleaded guilty. This process of pleading guilty to a lesser charge to get out of a more severe charge is called plea bargaining. Law enforcement has the goal to catch and punish those who break the law by any means necessary, but here in the United States, it is necessary to have beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is guilty before this person can be charged of a crime. That is when and how plea bargaining comes into play. It is my belief that everyone should know about plea bargaining and while plea bargaining has some benefits, there are more cons related to plea bargaining like the breaching of the Constitution, a criminal not getting as much time as they deserve, or the innocent always being guilty of a crime they didn’t commit.
First, what exactly is plea bargaining and where did it come from? It is, “allowing pleas of guilty in exchange for a reduction in the number or severity of charges or a prosecutor’s promise of a sentence recommendation” (Houlden 267). Now where did it come from? There is no clear answer to this question, but theories have been formed based on different studies. These theories state that “[t]he twin evils of caseload pressure and an irrepressible tendency toward cooperation among members of the courtroom "work group" are said to render plea bargaining unavoidable” (Schulhofer 1037). This means that plea bargaining came about by the difficulty of handling heavy case loads, this leading to the members of the justice system working together to get a case solved and out of the way, but there is more to it. If someone pleads guilty to a crime and makes a deal with the prosecutor they do not have to appear in court and in front of a jury, therefore the prosecutor does not have to have enough evidence to prove a person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (Langbein 15).
Getting a case solved and out of the way is one major benefit to plea bargaining. It saves the prosecutor’s time which allows them to move onto other cases and getting other criminals off the streets. It also allows the defendants who cooperate to be rewarded, and in other circumstances the defendants that you may not have sufficient evidence against to be convicted (Wan 40). On a moral standpoint, plea bargaining allows those who are guilty of a crime, to take responsibility for the crime that they have committed (40).
The first major con related to plea bargaining is that it breaches the Constitution. The Fifth and Sixth Amendments are often not considered when it comes to plea bargaining. The circumstance in which the Fifth Amendment is not considered is when it gives us our privilege against self-incrimination, and in the Sixth Amendment it is the right to a trial by a jury that is breached. This is because when you make a plea bargain it is not necessary to go to court (Wan 33). A point that many would argue against these standings is that these people willingly waived these rights, but there are potentially two arguments against that. One is that the prosecutor often coerces people into pleading guilty rather than going to trial. The other is that, “under the unconstitutional conditions doctrine, the government cannot condition a benefit on the recipient giving up the right” (Wan 34). This in turn supports that plea bargaining breaches the rights granted to...
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