Plea-bargaining can mean many things to many people, in and out of the courtroom. Let us first start by defining plea bargain. Plea bargain is defined an agreement in which the defendant enters a guilty plea in exchange for a reduced sentence. This is the technical meaning, but as I stated before, the word plea bargain can mean very different things to very different people.
To the accused, the word plea bargain means a freedom of choice. To the prosecutor, it means a lesser workload. To the Judge, it means saving his time and the courts time, and to the state, a plea bargain means saving money. In my perception, the word plea bargain means a failure of the American trial system. The Constitution grants us, the citizens of this country, a right to speedy trial by jury of our peers. Where exactly do you see that right, which is rightfully ours, in plea bargains? How can our trial and court system not bestow the punishment that fits the crime? When we give the accused freedom of choice, isn’t that an oxymoron? The only effectiveness I can see in the court system plea bargains is that solely the courts are benefitting from them. The courts save time, money and the prosecutors save themselves from a huge workload. Plea bargains have no effectiveness on the justice. How are the victims given justice if the accused gets a far lesser sentence and punishment than is fairly just? How can the accused learn their lesson when they have the freedom to choose a lesser punishment? How does the public perceive our trial system as fair and just when plea bargains are being over used to save time and money?
Plea bargaining is not a useful tool. The court systems, in order to save themselves from a trial, “…forces the party into a situation where they have to take a guess about what the evidence is, about how strong the case might be, and they have to make that guess against the background of enormously severe penalties if you guess wrong.” (Schulhofer, 2004)
Even though defendants are innocent, they do not know if they will be proved innocent or guilty without a reasonable doubt when in front of a jury. They are pressured into taking a guilty plea because they cannot afford the risk of going to trial. The court systems are unable to sort out the guilty people from the innocent and that is the main reason this system of plea bargaining is not a useful tool to the courts, the public, the defendants and the victims.
The word plea bargain may mean many different things to many different people but what we must understand is that plea bargain has many more cons than pros for both the faith of the people in the criminal justice system as well as the victims. Our justice system should be fair and just for all but all it seems to do is save time and money for the state and put many innocent people in jail and give the freedom of choice. It is time to change our trial and court systems to reflect what our founding fathers initially desired from it, the right to a speedy trial from our jury of peers, because the only people plea bargains benefit are the GUILTY!
Schulhofer, S. (2004, June 17). Frontline. Retrieved October 22, 2010 from PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/plea/faqs/ Seiter, R. P. (2008). The Role of Plea Bargaining and Sentencing. In R. P. Seiter, Corrections An Introduction 2nd Edition (pp. 47-48). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall.