The Pros and Cons of Plea Bargaining

Plea bargains are offered to defendants in exchange for reduced charges and sentences, but they often put innocent defendants behind bars.

Understanding Plea Bargains

A plea bargain is a legal agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant. If a defendant accepts a plea bargain, it means he/she pleads guilty for some or all charges in exchange for a reduction in charges and/or severity of punishment and reduced sentences. Although plea bargains offer advantages, they also come with consequences, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons before accepting a plea deal.

The primary advantage of plea bargaining is a faster, less complicated judicial process. Plea bargaining eliminates a jury trial that may take weeks or months and sends the case straight to a judge for sentencing. This allows criminal prosecutors to focus time and resources on other cases and reduce the number of trials in the courts.

The primary disadvantage of plea bargaining is that innocent people often end up in jail for crimes they did not commit. Without a jury trial and a criminal defense attorney Minneapolis to present evidence that may clear the defendant, an innocent party may be wrongfully convicted of a crime and spend years in a Minnesota prison.

In some cases, plea bargains require defendants to testify against other people.  Prosecutors commonly offer favorable plea deals to defendants who agree to testify against other defendants in criminal cases. In a plea bargaining agreement, prosecutors often roll other conditions, if the defendant testifies against a co-defendant which helps to solve larger criminal cases. However, plea bargaining may also allow prosecutors to take advantage of a defendant to gain knowledge in another case.

Although plea bargaining conserves resources and reduces caseloads within the criminal justice system, it is considered controversial by many people. While prosecutors benefit from plea deals, criminal defense attorneys Minneapolis argue that plea bargaining can be coercive and undermine a defendant’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights: the right to a jury trial; the right of protection against self-incrimination; and the right to confront witnesses. The Supreme Court holds that plea bargaining is constitutional, but a defendant’s guilty plea must be voluntary, and the defendant must know the consequences of pleading guilty.

In the United States, many successful criminal prosecutions end with plea bargains instead of jury trials. According to the Department of Justice, 90 to 95 percent of all criminal cases in today’s judicial system are resolved through plea bargaining.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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