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The Role Of Plea Bargaining In The American Criminal Justice System...Is It Good Or Bad?

1053 words - 4 pages

The process of plea-bargaining is an issue viewed in various lights based on the individual's role in this judicial process. Plea-bargaining may be beneficial to the rightfully accused allowing them a lighter sentence; however, if wrongfully accused, it could afford them their freedom.A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case where a prosecutor and a defendant arrange to end the case against the defendant before it goes to a judge or jury trial. The defendant agrees to plead guilty to a more minor offense than charged or to a smaller number of offenses than charged in exhange for a more leniant sentence or fine. Since the early 19th century, plea bargaining has played an essential part of the American criminal justice system. Research has shown that more than 90% of all felony criminal cases in urban areas of the United States are settled by plea bargain rather than by a jury trial. ("Plea Bargains: Why and When They're Made." 2002. FindLaw. 10 Mar 2004. http://criminal.findlaw.com/articles/1489.html>).There are several reasons for plea bargains. In most cases, the plea bargain is to avoid the uncertainty of the jury trial. In other cases, a defendant may have pertenant information regarding other criminals allowing the broader prosecution of other crimes. And in still other cases, prosecutors may be convinced that they have the right defendant and an accurate charge as to the crimes committed but lack the evidence necessary to bring the successful conviction against them. Regardless of the reasoning behind plea bargining, the process is brought into motion upon the descretion of the prosecutor. The empowerment of legal sentencing through the prosecutor brings many questions regarding the legitimacy of the process and the effects that it may have on the accused, regardless of guilt or innocence.Prosecutors generally have wide discretion as to the charges they may bring, and therefore tend to charge the defendant with the most extreme charges that are applicable to the situation at hand. In fact, in September of 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a new directive in plea bargaining to all federal prosecuters. In the directive, General Ashcroft required the federal prosecutors to charge defendants in all federal cases with "the most serious, readily provable offense" and to detour from negotiating pleas in the future. (Liptak, Adam. "New Plea Bargain Limits Could Swamp Courts, Experts Say." The New York Times 24 September 2003, National). However, critics believe this directive has not slowed the usage of harsh sentencing in acquiring a guilty plea. Many believe that prosecutors, as appointed government officials, infringe a conflict of interest in the judicial system. According to Carl E. Person, a civil litigator from the state of New York, the nation's prosecutors are nothing more than a modern version of the "Court of Star Chamber". (or "Star Chamber"; an equity court for criminal justice in which the King and his/her...

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