Plea Bargain Pros and Cons
It may be surprising to hear that the 90% of criminal convictions are obtained through the use of a plea bargain. However, plea bargains are an attractive option for overworked prosecutors and defendants who don’t want to take the risk of going to trial. Of course, there are many pros and cons for a plea bargain, which is why consulting with a criminal defense attorney is strongly encouraged if you are facing criminal charges.
A plea bargain has many advantages for a prosecutor—the biggest being that a plea bargain guarantees a conviction without having to go through a lengthy and expensive trial. Just as a defendant has a certain amount of risk during a trial, so does a prosecutor. No matter how much evidence a prosecutor has against the defendant, there is always a chance that the defendant can be acquitted. A plea bargain eliminates the uncertainty for the prosecution.
Prosecutors can also use a plea bargain to get a defendant to testify against a co-defendant. The prosecutor will be assured at least one conviction (although on a lesser charge or sentence) and increase the chances of gaining a conviction against the other defendant.
A plea bargain also has advantages for the defendant. The defendant may have the opportunity to plead guilty to a less serious charge and receive a more lenient sentence. Some plea bargains reduce the number of charges against the defendant, which can help his or her criminal record. A defendant can also save the time and expense associated with a trial by accepting a plea deal.
The disadvantages of a plea deal mainly affect the defendant. Some argue that the biggest disadvantage of a plea bargain is that an innocent defendant may decide to plead guilty to a reduced charge in order to avoid the risk of being found guilty at trial.
Critics also argue that the rampant use of plea bargaining has resulted in improperly conducted police conductions and the lack of preparation by the prosecution. They think that these parties rely heavily on making a plea deal instead of pursuing justice.