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The problem with plea bargains

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Facing a criminal conviction is a potentially life-changing time when your future is unclear. In many cases, plea bargaining represents an opportunity to minimize the consequences you face and keep you out of jail.

Plea bargains are advantageous and increase the efficiency of the justice system. While important, it is not the only reason to pursue plea bargains. Just as much as alleged victims of criminal activity deserve justice, defendants are entitled to due process.

Uncovering a sinister strategy

A recent American Bar Association (ABA) report uncovers evidence that this common tactic is not as advantageous as what is being “sold” to criminal defendants. Oftentimes, prosecutors “sell” the option by threatening harsher sentences with mandatory minimums. The goal of this “strategy” is simple. Get them to plead guilty.

In numerous cases, plea bargains are used to sidestep a defendant’s right to have an attorney represent them. Trial and pretrial litigation are often effective in identifying issues related to potential government abuse. Defendants are effectively denied discovery by taking the plea. Any potential challenges resolved through pretrial litigation that could bring these issues to light come to an immediate end.

Current plea bargains are secretive and stay that way due to the process’s lack of actual recording and documentation. Charges that could be amended stay as is without solid proof.

Defendants’ rights to a jury trial remain the only protected right in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The founding fathers believe that proceedings hold governments to the principles of those documents. And think them to be the foundation of liberty.