What is plea bargaining? It is a negotiation between a criminal defendant and a prosecutor. The defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge (than the one filed upon arrest), and the prosecutor agrees to dismiss the more serious charge.
Who benefits most from plea bargains? Although plea bargaining can help defendants, the court system receives advantages such as relief from already clogged court dockets. The prosecutor also benefits from a plea deal with a lightened caseload and a certain victory.
Is plea bargaining fair to defendants?
Not always. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the once beneficial plea bargain system has failed to protect defendants in recent decades. Due to the involvement of the ACLU in judicial fairness, it can cite many instances where plea bargaining violated a defendant’s rights.
The ACLU reports several ways defendants can be coerced into plea bargaining. Examples include:
- Pretrial detention isolates defendants from families and communities, effectively increasing the fear and pressure they feel.
- Many crimes have sentence enhancements or mandatory minimum sentences that escalate pressure and fear in defendants.
- Plea bargaining has little transparency, making it hard for defendants (and the public) to understand how the process works.
The ACLU believes that most plea bargains occur without the due process that our founding fathers intended. In other words, your right to a fair trial before a jury of your peers may be canceled out by coercive plea bargaining.
If you are facing criminal charges in New Hampshire, do not enter any plea bargain without the counsel of a criminal defense advocate. It is also wise to learn more about the other defense options at your disposal before accepting a deal.