The legal system can be fairly complex and some procedures can be difficult for those without expert knowledge to fully understand. Plea bargaining is a legal issue that always seems to be in the news. If a defendant is facing criminal charges, plea bargaining can be a way to minimize the potential penalty. In most cases, the defendant facing charges is simply looking to minimize the penalty that they face and remove the risk that they could be hit with the maximum penalty. Trial sentencing is often not the route that many defendants facing criminal charges take. Most decide instead to enter a plea bargaining agreement.
List of Pros of Plea Bargaining
1. Removes Potential of Maximum Penalty
The biggest benefit of plea bargaining for the defendant in a criminal trial is the removal of maximum punishment. If a defendant decides to go to trial they could potentially be sentenced to the full extent of the law. However, if they opt instead for the plea deal they can get a charge that carries a much lesser sentence and removes the risk of trial. Trial is simply risky for any defendant, because you never know how a jury will view your case.
2. Better Use of Funds
Another benefit of plea bargaining is the ability to free up the amount of cases that are seen in court. This helps to cut court costs immensely for the public and also frees up prosecutors for more important cases that must be taken to trial. The ability for public funds to be used more effectively and for prosecutors to handle more cases is the biggest advantage of plea bargaining.
List of Cons of Plea Bargaining
1. Innocent Pleading Guilty
The biggest downside to plea bargaining for innocent defendants is the fact that they must plead guilty. One term of most plea bargains is that the defendant must enter a guilty plea to get the lesser charge and sentence. Some defendants that are in fact innocent might be unwilling to plead guilty simply to avoid risk of the maximum penalty.
2. Poor Policing
Some feel that plea bargaining takes away from pursuing justice and simply allows for a deal to get struck and the consequences to be minimal. Many of the problems with repeat offenders can be tied back to plea bargaining and the effect that it might be having. There is no way to know for sure if plea bargaining is really a form of justice that works in deterring crime.
Risk of Trial
A trial is the option that all defendants have, but it can be very risky to allow jurors to decide your fate and guilt. The most effective way to often avoid jail time and other penalties is to simply accept a plea agreement. Trial is risky due to the fact that it is almost impossible to predict how a jury will decide. Many defendants are looking to forego trial and instead take the option of plea bargaining with the prosecution to avoid trial altogether.
What is Plea Bargaining?
Before you decide if plea bargaining is a sufficient option, you need to fully understand what the process entails. This type of agreement is defined as one that is reached between the prosecution and the defendant in a criminal case. The prosecutor is the one that comes up with the plea bargaining terms and offers this deal to the defendant. The terms that the f=defendant is agreeing to often involve a lesser charge with a sentence that is also lesser than the maximum sentence. In many cases, the prosecution will offer a plea deal to the defendant that involves dropping the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor. The maximum prison sentence for a felony crime is 20 years, but agreeing to a plea bargaining deal of a misdemeanor might allow for a sentence of only 10 years. This allows the defendant to avoid the maximum penalty for the crime altogether.
What Factors Go Into Plea Bargaining?
Plea bargaining can be a very complex process and involve a variety of different factors. Each individual case is different and plea bargaining might not always be ideal for the prosecution or the defendant depending on the particulars of the case. This means that both sides have to consider the strength of their case realistically before trial approaches and determine if plea bargaining is in fact a better option. The public pressure from the outside to prosecute the defendant to the full extent of the law might sometimes impact plea bargaining.