I pull back the curtain on Plea Bargains. Justice Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court wrote, “Criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials.” Justice Scalia wrote, “We accept plea bargaining because many believe that without it, our long and expensive process of criminal trial could not sustain the burden imposed on it, and our system of criminal justice would grind to a halt.”
Plea bargaining seems to be vilified by both sides of the political spectrum. Those who favor mass incarceration feel that criminals should be punished to the fullest extent of the law and not given lesser sentences on the basis of judicial expediency. Those who fear the number of innocent people coerced into pleading guilty feel that prosecutors should not be able to threaten life sentences in order to procure pleas in weak cases.
The Supreme Court has dealt with the issue sparingly. There are pros and cons to plea bargaining and the system is fraught with great potential for unfairness and unequal treatment, but there seems to be no viable alternative to its existence. Hear the pros and cons in this episode and lest you believe that you would never be coerced into pleading guilty to something you did not actually do, check out a recent study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Authors Lucian E. Dervan and Vaness Edkins found that more than 50% of college students in the study who were falsely accused of cheating wound up admitting guilt anyway in return for a perceived benefit.
TRIAL LAWYER MENTOR Quick Tip:
I offer two strategies to consider when you are engaged in negotiations and trying to come to a meeting of the minds.
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