Plea Bargaining - Who Benefits?
Plea bargaining is a process of negotiation and resolution that is an efficient, informal and by and large, successful alternative to the formal process of a criminal trial. Despite this less formal approach, the goal that drives plea bargaining is exactly the same: to bring about a fair, balanced and just resolution to an act of wrongdoing (Larson, 2000). In this regard, the use of plea bargaining is not only beneficial to all concerned in the judicial process; but may be preferable to a formal trial. The process of bringing a defendant to trial is a costly and complex endeavor that ultimately involves many people, from the police who investigate crimes and offer testimony to witnesses, victims, attorneys and of course, the presiding judge and other court personnel. Plea bargaining is, in essence, a form of negotiation. As with any negotiation, give-and-take occurs between prosecutors and defendants wherein those accused weigh the persuasiveness of evidence against ultimate punishments and the possible reduction of those punishments in exchange for information, testimony and an acknowledgment of guilt. On the other side of the table, prosecutors consider the time and costs resulting from holding a full trial, the chance that a clever defense attorney might be able to persuade a recalcitrant jury of the defendant’s innocence, and the potential value of testimony that might be bought from the accused using reduced charges and shorter sentences to secure cooperation. Clearly, both the accused and prosecutor benefit directly from the plea-bargain system. However, other beneficiaries are not difficult to identify. For example, when a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for lighter sentences or reduced charges, the benefit to that individual is obvious. But if that deal also includes an agreement that the accused will provide crucial information and testimony that will solve other crimes and bring other perpetrators to justice, the...
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