Does plea bargaining need reform in the U.S. criminal justice system?

| Nov 9, 2020 | Criminal Defense

In the majority of criminal cases, the prosecutor will offer a plea bargain to the defendant. The plea bargain is a deal that the prosecutor wants to strike with you to get you to plead guilty. 

A plea bargain may reduce the charges against you or offer a reduced sentence. To take a plea bargain, you always must plead guilty in some form. You also will waive your right to a jury. Because of this, there are some who feel prosecutors wrongly use plea bargains. 

The problems 

The American Bar Association also explains that some people feel plea bargains help increase or uphold discrimination within the criminal justice system. Some people feel that plea bargains lead to overcrowded prisons. They feel that they also increase penalties at trial because studies show rejecting a plea bargain usually results in harsher sentences. 

The biggest issue

Above all the other issues people take with plea bargains, the most significant concern is that it encourages innocent people to plead guilty. These offers often come with strong pressure to accept them or face harsh consequences. For someone fearing what could happen at trial, it may seem like the best deal available. 

In some cases, prosecutors will threaten to add additional charges or go after a more severe sentence if the person does not take the plea deal. With the uncertainty of a trial, some people will take the deal out of fear. 

Lack of data

The reason there is no reform in this area as of yet is that there is very little concrete information about it. There are a lot of things nobody knows about how prosecutors use these deals and the inner workings of them. Without knowing more information, it is hard to reform the process.