The Importance of Plea Bargaining in Criminal Trials
Screeech! That is the sound of our court system coming to a grinding halt, if plea bargaining were no longer utilized. Not only does plea bargaining save taxpayers an enormous amount of money, it often provides the evidence for a conviction and allows public defenders and other court officials to concentrate their limited resources on more important or difficult cases. Some people may believe that plea bargaining with criminals is wrong. The entire basis of the argument against plea bargaining says that criminals should not testify or have anything to do with the prosecution because they were involved with the crime. We fail to realize that without plea bargaining many criminals would never be punished for their crimes at all. It is as simple as that. Granted, a plea bargain is, by definition, a compromise. But it is a compromise that is absolutely necessary for the judicial system to function. While it may seem that a person who exchanges his testimony for a lighter sentence would have sufficient motivation to lie in court the fact is that his testimony is simply verifying the testimonies of other witnesses. In a majority of cases plea bargains is utilized to ensure that the truly guilty criminal is punished. In our less than perfect world, plea bargaining is easily the lesser of the evils.
I agree with the definitions submitted by the affirmative speaker.
Americans have always emphasized getting a job done. We place a great deal of value on efficiency and industry. The government is expected to run with efficiency and operate with the good of the people in mind. Every aspect of our lives is governed by this utilitarian value. Why do we place such importance on efficiency? Because without it nothing would ever get done. If we all constantly obsessed over minute details and unrealistic ideals we would live in poverty. In the real world compromises are made because without them no amount of success could ever be achieved. In the words of John Stewart Mill, the father of utilitarianism, "The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals utility, or the greatest happiness principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness". This means that in a world of compromise, the most success is achieved by giving the greatest good to the greatest number of people.
This belief applies directly to plea bargaining. In this case, the most justice must be given the greatest number of criminals. Currently in the state of New York, 79% of all first degree murder cases are plea bargained. Without plea bargaining, many of these criminals would never even see a jail cell. Barry Kinsey, a sociologist at The University of Tulsa, said "Without plea bargaining the court's could not function unless there were drastic increases in budget allowance" . The courts are at present full and running over and if all the cases were to be tried the courts budgets would have to be increased by 900% (according to Tom Wallace, a public defender from Baltimore, Maryland).
It is also important to consider the length of time that would be required to try every person indicted for a crime. With the courts as over burdened as they are, taking every case to trial could clog up the courts almost indefinitely. Since every person in this country is guaranteed a speedy trial (courtesy of the sixth amendment), banning plea bargaining without tremendous budget increases would violate the constitutional rights of those accused.
The affirmative speaker believes that plea bargaining does not reveal the
truth. He has said that there is often lying and inaccurate accounts of the
truth as a result of plea bargaining. I believe that the opposition is wrong. There may be cases where there is lying but every part of the court system will have a little of that. The affirmative speaker has totally contradicted himself. He stated that plea bargaining is when a person admits to his crime and therefore is rewarded with a lighter sentence. Is the affirmative side saying that criminals admit to other crimes than what they have done. It appears to me that he is stating that a person who is charged for a crime is admitting to a totally different crime. Therefore he will be sentenced for that crime and still go through his original trial. Second of all he said that most of the time the actual truth is known, if it is how is this accused person going to lie. I am saying that plea bargaining definitely reaches the truth and that is one reason why it is used because the truth is know and the defendant is simply agreeing with it, therefore the affirmative speaker has no validation for this argument.
The speaker also referred to how plea bargaining was inaccurate and unfair.
It was stated that plea bargaining doesn't reflect what really happened and the
accused is not punished fairly. I have already stated how Plea Bargaining does reach the truth therefore it is accurate. The accuracy is very accountable because in many cases there are other witnesses that confirm the testimony of the defendant. Witnesses and/or victims are usually present at the case and testify to add additional
information and verify the testimony of the defendant. With verification and most
of the time when the actual truth is known the process of plea bargaining is very
Secondly the affirmative case said how plea bargaining was "unfair". It was
said that the criminal is not punished fairly for the crime he has committed. This
statement is also wrong. The criminal is not only saving time and money for the
court system and other people but he is also is admitting he has done wrong.
Much time and money is saved with plea bargaining. The criminal is not taking
advantage of the court system by going through a long tedious trial but he is
admitting he has done wrong. The amount of time , money , and work the criminal
saves clearly outweighs lesser sentence he is given. The opposition also failed
to prove that many of the cases of Plea Bargaining are not as drastic as his example of the man whose sentence was reduced from forty years to two years. In most cases the sentence is only reduced by a small margin.
One of the affirmative cases main arguments is how criminals are sent back
on the street as a result of plea bargaining. He said that when criminals are given
shortened sentences they are sent back on the street to commit more crimes. I am
not going to lie, yes, there are instances when criminals are sent back to the street
and do commit terrible crimes, but I do not believe that plea bargaining is the cause of this. When many criminals are sent back on the street it is the result of lenient bail. Many times criminals are given $5000 bail and are sent back on the street to where they can easliy catch a bus and continue their career in another town. There are not usually drastic changes in sentencing, it may be only a few years difference and the criminal still gets plenty of time to think about what he has done.
At present, 68% of all murder cases in the U. S. end in conviction. Those indicted for first degree murder who accept plea bargains often receive the same or similar sentence as they would have received if they were convicted by a jury (the main difference being that seeking death penalty is often dropped). Abolishing plea bargaining in this country would be a mistake with potentially disastrous consequences. Since justice is being served in our country's criminal courts, why should we risk our own finances and the punishment of criminals, that is already effectively taking place, to achieve the lofty ideals of a few social theorists?