Pros and Cons of Plea Bargaining

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Plea bargaining occurs when both sides of a case don’t want to proceed through to a trial. Neither side may like their chances and the plea bargain allows both sides to get something out of the deal. It may be criticized often, but 9 out of 10 cases are negotiated pleas. Here are the pros and cons of plea bargaining to consider.

What Are the Pros of Plea Bargaining?

1. It assures a conviction.
The whole purpose of the justice system is to create a safer society. The plea bargain helps to make sure a conviction takes place, even if it may be for a lesser sentence or a different crime than initially charged.

2. It saves taxpayers a lot of money.
The average cost of a trial for a felony can exceed $1 million per case in some areas. Taking cases to trial is expensive and it can take a long time to even get the case over to a jury. Plea bargaining saves money because it saves time.

3. It provides an incentive for the guilty to plead guilty.
In the American justice system, people are assumed to be innocent and must be proven guilty. The plea bargaining system helps to encourage a guilty plea instead of a not guilty plea because there is the chance for a reduction in the sentence imposed.

What Are the Cons of Plea Bargaining?

1. It still doesn’t make sure the innocent don’t go to prison.
An innocent person may decide to take a plea bargain because they don’t wish to risk an extended sentence and their eventual freedom during a trial. What’s 5 years in prison when they could be facing a 50 year sentence if they lose at trial?

2. It creates a system of favoritism against other defendants.
A common plea bargaining tactic is to offer a reduced sentence for one person so a prosecutor can solidify their case against someone else.

3. It may not offer the justice that a victim’s family may want.
Families who are victimized want to see justice served. If a plea bargain gives someone a 10 year sentence when a trial could have provide a life without parole sentence, the family may feel that justice wasn’t served at all.

The pros and cons of plea bargaining reduce the gambling nature of a trial. It saves taxpayers money, but at the expense of justice perhaps not being served as effectively as it could be in certain instances. Even though plea bargains are common, they should still be carefully evaluated for their effectiveness.