When charged with a criminal offense, you have the right to a fair trial. Why then do so many people forfeit this right by entering into plea bargains?
Plea bargaining is about applying pressure. If you apply enough pressure, most people will eventually give in. It is like the school bully twisting your arm until you hand over whatever they want from you. Yet, in this case, the bully is a prosecutor, and the pain is not immediate but imminent. While plea deals are occasionally a wise decision, most defendants take them because they’re either scared of what will happen if they don’t or they’re desperate to get a case over and go back to their lives.
And that’s far from the only problem with plea deals.
Plea bargaining helps private prisons make money
The U.S. prison system houses one-quarter of all the world’s prisoners. Many of them could have avoided being there if they had gone to trial to defend their innocence instead of accepting a plea bargain. Yet, the prosecution persuades them that the perceived pain of losing a trial will be so great that it is better to play safe and plead guilty in exchange for lesser consequences — and they may be right. It’s not unheard of for a defendant convicted at trial to receive a much heavier sentence — as if they are being punished for demanding a fair trial in addition to their crimes.
Plea bargaining works for many people. It works for the prosecution team because it makes their job easier and for the police because it allows them to mark a crime as solved. It also works for those who own prisons or whose living depends on a constant supply of inmates. Yet, it does not work for innocent people who are falsely accused.
Assert your right to a fair trial if you’re charged with a crime
By looking at your case in detail and understanding the relevant laws, you can work out your best line of defense. It may be that you decide to accept a plea bargain. Yet, it is crucial to remember that pleading guilty will affect you for the rest of your life. The only sure way to protect your freedom and future if facing criminal charges is to fight hard to prove your innocence.