In plea bargaining, the prosecutor offers a deal to the defendant as an incentive so that they (the defendant) would plead guilty. By pleading guilty to an offense that is lesser, the defendant is in return given a lighter sentence. Sometimes, a plea bargaining is offered so that the accused would give a testimony which could further be used. This testimony can be used in the conviction of another case of presumably a higher profile.
The court also offers plea bargains so as to enable the reduction of the court time or even as a sign of being merciful to the defendant. Since what follows conviction is a sentence, plea bargaining is essential so as to reduce the chances of having a sentence that is severe. However, the public views that plea bargaining is a way of being ‘soft on crime.’
There are three types of plea bargains. These are charge bargaining, sentence bargaining and count bargaining (Meyer & Grant, 2003). In charge bargaining, the defendant pleads guilty and this is done in exchange to the charges he faces being less severe. By charge bargaining, the maximum sentence that would have been imposed because of the case is reduced.
For instance, there are cases where defendants are permitted to plead guilty to offences that are necessarily included. In sentence bargaining, in exchange for pleading guilty, the defendant is promised that they would get lighter sanctions or even alternatives. Therefore, it results to a reduced penalty since what happens is the transformation of the sentence. During sentence bargaining, defendants plead guilty with the aim of with the aim of avoiding death as the penalty or getting a life without parole sentences. Sentence bargains are usually applied in cases of homicide.
However, it can also be applied in less serious cases for example drug charges. People usually bargain to the prosecutor. However, there are times when leaves the judge to give the sentence. In this, there is the assumption that the judge would be more lenient than he would have been without a plea of guilty. However, defendants do not find the sentence bargaining attractive since the judge’s acceptance of the recommendation from the prosecutor is not guaranteed.
Count bargaining results to the reduction in the number of charges. Depending on the cases, one or even more charges can be dropped. Therefore, count bargaining is only for the people with multiple charges and thus it is less common. This has the advantage that is not necessarily that the charges will be identical for the defendant to be allowed count bargaining. Thus, by reducing the number of charges, the maximum possible sentence is also reduced.
There are many arguments that exist for and against the use of plea bargains. Those who argue for the use of plea bargains argue that it spares the state the trial costs and time. Thus it is an administrative necessity since if it were not there, there would be a lot of flooding in courts and thus making the justice process even more inefficient. There are also arguments that through plea bargaining, the defendants are given more autonomy (Olin, 2002).
Thus though they are offenders of the law, the defendants also get to enjoy their right of independence. Since in plea bargaining, the defendant has to plead guilty of the charge or charges against them, it is a good way of one repenting for their crimes. Thus plea bargaining is advantageous to all parties involved i.e. the court, the defendant and the prosecution.
On the other hand, plea bargaining is regarded as being too lenient on offenders. This is usually a view of the public. In this, people view that criminals are left to go in a light manner. Thus, it gives criminals chances of defeating the justice and in this way, reduces the respect that the public has for the process of criminal justice. In the public opinion, in plea bargaining, it’s possible that people who are innocent will also plea guilty so as to minimize their penalties.
In my opinion, plea bargaining is more efficient than the negative aspects it presents. This is because it is advantageous to all. The defendants will have their charges reduced, the prosecutors, courts and the state are saved trial costs and also the time that would have been spend in trying each case and making ruling for sentences on each charge. Though the public has negative opinions about plea bargaining, they also benefit for instance the relatives and friends of the prosecuted.
Due to these benefits which in my opinion overweigh any unfairness or injustice that plea bargaining introduces in the process of justice, there are doubts that plea bargaining will be phased out. In the future, I would like to see plea bargaining made more effective by having specific cases in which one would be allowed to bargain. There are also those who repeatedly commit crimes and in my opinion, they should not be offered plea bargaining.
Meyer, J. & Grant, D.R. (2003). The courts in our criminal justice system: Plea Bargaining. Prentice Hall.
Olin, D. (2002). The New York Times Magazine: Plea Bargain. Retrieved from: http://truthinjustice.org/bargaining.htm. Accessed February 4, 2011.