The United States Judicial System
Southern New Hampshire University, CJ-207:The United States Judicial System Week Four Discussion Post: Make Your Case
Take a position. Is plea bargaining an effective or ineffective alternative process? (For this post, I have taken the position that plea bargaining is NOT an effective alternative process).
Use the information gained in this module and the resources noted above to make your case.
Based upon the volume of court cases, the societal implications, and the impact that plea bargaining has on the defendant, do you believe that plea bargaining represents justice? Why or why not? Be sure to build your case with factual resources.
Based on the resources provided, I concluded that plea bargaining is not an effective alternative process. I believe our textbook said it best when it stated that plea bargaining “Undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system. It circumvents the rigorous standards of due process and proof imposed during trials.”2 (Hemmens et al., 2020, p. 252)
While plea bargaining has its benefits such as allowing courts to regulate a large number of cases quickly, and that plea bargaining is economical because, “If every criminal charge were subject to a full-scale trial, the states and the Federal Government would need to multiply by many times the number of judges and court facilities.” (Santobello v. New York,(1971), pp. 260-261). Furthermore, plea bargaining typically only benefits prosecutors, and in some instances, defense attorneys, who have immense caseloads and inadequate resources, allowing them to fulfill their agenda of conducting cases in a quicker fashion and more efficiently. Sadly, these are where the benefits end.
The dilemma with plea bargaining is that many times they result in conviction and sentences that do not appropriately mirror the severity of the crime committed by the defendant. For example, “A defendant who commits a robbery with a gun, but whose charge is reduced from armed robbery to robbery during plea negotiations, may receive a more lenient sentence than he deserves.” (Hemmens, et al., 2020, p. 255). Additionally, as a first step in the plea-bargaining proceeding, the prosecutor may begin with the most serious charge and work down to the least serious, often overcharging a defendant, as a means to obtain a guilty plea. More concerning, plea bargaining permits prosecutors and defense attorneys to conclusively determine circumstances of guilt, with no judge or jury involved.
Plea bargaining intimidates innocent defendants into pleading guilty to a crime that they did not commit, which appears to be what happened in the case of Shanta Sweatt according to Innocence Is Irrelevant by Emily Yoffe. The article describes the circumstances behind Sweatt’s arrest, and how ultimately Sweatt and her attorney decided to confer a plea bargain, in hopes that in exchange for pleading guilty, that the prosecutor would not advise Sweatt to serve prison time.
“The strategy worked. The prosecutor reduced the charge from a felony to a Class A misdemeanor and offered Sweatt a six-month suspended sentence with no probation. Her paraphernalia charge was dismissed, and her conviction would result in a fine and fees that totaled $1,396.15.” (Yoffe, 2017). Unfortunately, this is a commonality in the criminal justice system today, and plea bargains make up a massive portion of felony convictions because defendants would rather waive their right to trial and take their chances of pleading guilty in hopes of getting a reduced sentence or charge.
Hemmens, C., Brody, D. C., & Spohn, C. (2020).2Criminal courts: A contemporary perspective,
4e. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Yoffe, E. (2017, August 5).2Innocence Is Irrelevant in the Age of the Plea Bargain. The Atlantic;