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Discuss the use of plea bargaining in the criminal justice system.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Excellent posts so far, and I actually have very little to add to this discussion.  You've heard about the advantages and disadvantages of plea bargaining, but I'm struck with the rather demoralizing effects of plea bargaining on the jury.  If a case pleads out before going to court, this is not an issue; however, many plea bargains aren't made until the eleventh hour--after all the cards have been played and the members of the jury have spent their time being attentive and active listeners at the trial.  Just when they get to go do their civic duty and deliberate, the deal is struck and jurors are released.  I only think of this because, within the past year, I've probably had seven or eight friends and former students who expressed their frustration at not being able to see a case through to the end as a jury member.  That seems like a high number to me, and the experience has certainly made jury duty more unappealing to them. I can feel their frustration.  I'm glad we have the option to plea bargain, but there are costs.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think that plea bargaining is one of those elements that falls under the nebulous umbrella called "prosecutorial discretion."  Essentially, it is a force that compels citizens to place trust in the prosecutor.  The plea bargains made are done on tactical decisions of winnability of cases, amount of evidence collected, and what might serve the interests of justice.  The plea bargain process is content with getting something that is better than nothing.  Prosecutors have to be careful with how the plea bargain process is used and how it is perceived by the public, as reelection claims become difficult if a pattern of abuse or incompetence regarding the use of plea bargaining is present.  I suppose that my toughest issue with the plea bargain system is how one can, essentially, negotiate justice.  That is what the plea bargain is reduced to, as the prosecutor "cuts a deal," and, from a theoretical point of view, the question that lingers is whether justice, an intangible ideal, is capable of being negotiated.

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brettd eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are a couple of other uses/factors regarding plea bargaining that have not yet been mentioned here.  In many cases, it would be difficult to obtain a conviction, or at least risky.  If the accused were acquitted, they would serve no jail time at all, and a plea bargain can guarantee at least some punishment, as well as prevent the need for a victim to have to testify in a painful court trial.  For victims of assaults, this is very important.

Secondly, plea bargains are sometimes given to co-defendants in a criminal case in exchange for their testimony against their partners in crime.  I disagree with this practice because it gives criminals an incentive to lie by reducing their sentence,...

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martinjmurphy eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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krishna-agrawala | Student

Plea bargaining is a judicial practice in which a person charged with a criminal case pleads guilty instead of going on a trial. against an promise by prosecuting authority for pressing lighter charges. Such lighter charges may involve dropping one or more charges, substituting a less serious charge, or recommendation for lighter sentence than ordinarily would be given.

Plea bargaining cuts down the cost and time of trial for the defendant as well as the other parties involved. The lighter punishment resulting from the bargaining process is justified on the grounds that a lawbreaker who admits the guilt has shown regret for criminal actions committed, hence deserves lighter sentence.

However, critics of plea bargaining argue that it allows criminals to get away with lighter punishment than they deserve. This practice is also opposed on the grounds that it jeopardizes the right of people to be considered innocent till proved guilty. It is felt that the fear of lengthy as well as unfair trial may force even innocent people to accept charges of crime they did not commit.

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