The Question of Need
The plea bargaining practice is valuable to the Criminal Justice System due to many reasons. Firstly, it is not possible for the courts to handle every single case trial due to the sheer number of filed cases requiring a court hearing (Frontline, 2004). Secondly, such a practice makes the job of prosecutors and criminal lawyers easier as it simplifies and shortens case processing. Finally, the plea bargain is money- and resource-efficient since it reduces the effort eliminating the need to organize and conduct the trial. According to Frontline (2004), only 5% of the filed cases proceed to the actual trial. This fact alone serves as proof of the judicial system’s need for practices such as plea bargaining.
The Question of Professional Competence
Court trials are held with the sole, transparent, and clear purpose of uncovering the objective truth behind certain events. In this context, the decision to omit the trial and prematurely resolve the case adheres to several assumptions regarding the people involved in it. Notably, plea bargaining practice relies on prosecutors being confident enough in their accusation and the evidence behind it. In addition, the defense attorney should explore all possible opportunities before the decision to accept the bargain. However, the most important part of this practice is a competent judge who will oversee the whole process and make sure everything occurs as it is supposed to.
The Question of a Human Factor
Unfortunately, the actual situation often differs from what is implied in its ideal form. In particular, the question of a human factor concerns the simplification of plea bargaining compared to the whole trial process. The simplification creates negative incentives for responsible people to neglect some of the requirements imposed by their professionalism and prefer a quick resolution to a thorough investigation. Moreover, the human factor interferes with professional competencies in a much broader sense. The decision to impose or accept plea bargaining might not be caused by deliberate professional neglect but result from the lack of professionalism.
The Question of the Cost of a Mistake
In general, the costs associated with plea bargaining practice tend to be lesser than they could have been otherwise. However, combined with the desire to simplify or quicken the process, plea bargaining might result in convicting the wrong people. According to Frontline (2004), the outcomes can range from fees imposed on defendants due to the probation period to incarcerating innocent people in cases where their innocence could have been proven in court. In this context, the critics contend that the case resolution through plea bargains in many ways jeopardizes the defendants’ constitutional rights. They are being pressured to admit their guilt regardless of being guilty or not, proving that this practice cannot always be considered beneficial.
The Question of the Judicial System
The controversy around plea bargaining contributes to a broader question of the U.S. Criminal Justice System’s unnecessary severity. In his study, Rothschild (2019) highlights that the U.S. has the greatest incarceration rates worldwide and illustrates how the system has grown more and more punitive over the last decades. Being used as a political and social control tool, Criminal Justice System developed a tendency to shorten the trials and simplify the conviction process. As a result, the modern system reflects this tendency, including the plea bargaining practice.
Frontline. (2004). The plea. GBH.
Rothschild, C. (2019). The incarcerated State(s) of America: The causes, consequences, and solutions to mass incarceration in the United States. The Rice Examiner, 2(1), 103-129.