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  • Ethics of Plea Bargains Questioned

Maich, Steve. "Ethics Of Plea Bargains Questioned." In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada, 1985—. Article published August 8, 2007

Cops and Pleas: Police Officers' Influence on Plea Bargaining

Transcript of Unethical Plea Bargaining and Indigent Defendants

1399, 1407 (2012).Supreme Court Constitutional Standards for Plea Bargaining Strickland v.
Still, even Sandefur acknowledges that the system is rife with abuse - too often relying on intimidation and coercion - and that any government practices that "chill the exercise of constitutional rights" are dangerous. Ultimately he, and other defenders of the status quo, fall back on pragmatism: the state simply cannot afford to try all the thousands of people charged with a crime in a given year. There's no question, plea bargaining saves us from a prohibitively expensive judicial system. But many legal minds simply can't abide the moral implications of that efficiency.

The Plea Bargain Stage of a Criminal Case - ThoughtCo

Lockhart: applied the Strickland standard of ineffective assistance of counsel to plea bargaining2.
And the threat can be enormous. Consider the case of Robert H. - an unidentified man whose case was first described in a 1994 paper for the by Albert Alschuler and Andrew Deiss. According to the authors, Robert spent six months in the early 1990s in an Atlanta jail without any formal charges before meeting with a public defender. On the day she met him, she told him he'd been charged with a felony, but if he pleaded guilty he could go home that day because of the time he'd already served. If he pleaded innocent, he'd be kept in custody for at least another year awaiting trial. Not surprisingly, Robert pleaded guilty. Only later did authorities realize that due to a bureaucratic error, he'd been mistaken for someone else and should never have been arrested, let alone convicted.

 

The Problem With Pleas | FRONTLINE | PBS | Official Site


Robert H.'s case illustrates Langbein's central objection to the coercive nature of such plea bargains. "If you let me, the prosecutor, increase the sentencing disparity [between a guilty plea and a guilty verdict] enough, I can get anyone to concede guilt to almost anything," he says. "Suppose I've got 20 bishops ready to testify that I didn't overstay the parking meter. But the choice is plead guilty, pay a fine or face a possible death sentence. What do you think? I plead guilty."


The Ethics of Plea Bargaining offers a sustained argument for restrained forms of plea bargaining and against the freewheeling kinds of it that predominate in the United States. Rewards for admitting guilt are distinguished from penalties for exercising the right to trial. The latter appear in numerous guises and are shown to be indefensible. Modest and fixed sentence reductions for defendants who admit their guilt are urged. Deliberate overcharging by prosecutors and charge bargaining, it is argued, should be discouraged. Claims that large and variable charge and sentence reductions are needed to expand deserved punishment, reward remorseful offenders, encourage cooperation from defendants in implicating others suspected of crimes, enhance the deterrent profile of the criminal justice system, or salvage convictions when the evidence against accused individuals is weak are all shown to lack credibility. The contention that such reductions in punishment are justified because they are freely agreed by state officials and criminal defendants is likewise shown to be unconvincing, given the ways in and extent to which criminal justice practices ought to be structured by desert or crime reduction norms. Forms of overcriminalization are noted throughout the book and shown to complicate the analysis of plea bargaining practices.


Court to hear plea bargain issue - SCOTUSblog

The Ethics of Plea Bargaining offers a sustained argument for restrained forms of plea bargaining and against the freewheeling kinds of it that predominate in the United States. Rewards for admitting guilt are distinguished from penalties for exercising the right to trial. The latter appear in numerous guises and are shown to be indefensible. Modest and fixed sentence reductions for defendants who admit their guilt are urged. Deliberate overcharging by prosecutors and charge bargaining, it is argued, should be discouraged. Claims that large and variable charge and sentence reducti ...

New Mexico DWI - DUI Penalties, Laws and Information

"The problem is, many of the laws these people are being prosecuted under are vague, and are not understood to be breaches of the law. Then the prosecutor comes along and says, I'm going to press charges and put you in the slammer - and in the United States, because of our sentencing savagery in such cases, that means forever and ever - unless, that is, you agree to incriminate yourself and whoever it is I really want to nail - whether that's Ken Lay or Jeff Skilling or whoever." Both Canada and the United States are based on a legal tradition that envisions a jury of lay people as a check against potential abuses of power by the state. But plea bargaining concentrates all of that power into the hands of individuals who are, in the U.S., politicians, and in Canada, civil servants.

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Most legal professionals have come to grudgingly accept the system, warts and all. But that acceptance seems based more on practicality than principle. In 1975, the Law Reform Commission of Canada called plea bargaining "something for which a decent criminal justice system has no place." By 1989, faced with a system bogging down under its own weight, its position had completely reversed: "plea negotiation is not an inherently shameful practice," the commission concluded. Most legal professionals concede that rampant plea bargaining plays havoc with legal statistics, as defendants are routinely overcharged and end up convicted of lesser offences. Most even agree that prosecutors have too much leeway in the games they can play to extract guilty pleas, such as withholding potentially exculpatory evidence - a tactic sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002. Still, they say, the courts would grind to a halt without plea bargains.