The Plea Bargaining In The Criminal Justice System

1898 Words8 Pages
“In courtrooms around the country, more than nine out of every ten defendants surrendered any chance of acquittal, abandoned the constitutional right to a jury trial, and asked courts to enter judgments against them” (Gilchrist, 2016, p. 611). Plea bargaining is a complicated part of the criminal justice system. Negotiations happen before or during a trial and often the exact details of a plea bargain are unknown to anyone beyond those who are directly affected. This system can work to the advantage of criminal defendants and their attorneys, but also can lead to abuses of the system on the part of the defense, each of which I will address in turn. First, from a legal standpoint, the ubiquity of plea bargaining has led to its recognition…show more content…
Defendants take advantage of the plea bargain system in an intriguing manner - by challenging the effectiveness of their own attorneys. In Strickland v. Washington, the U.S. Supreme Court outlined a two-pronged test to describe what it means for counsel to be considered ineffective under the Sixth Amendment. First, the person seeking relief must be able to demonstrate that counsel’s performance was defective. Further, they must prove that the deficiency of counsel directly deprived the defendant of a fair trial (Strickland v. Washington, 1984). The United States Supreme Court addressed part of this issue with their decision of Missouri v. Frye. In this case, the respondent’s attorney failed to inform him about two potential plea deals; a factor which the Court decided was a violation of Frye’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel (Missouri v. Frye, 2012). By making this decision, the Supreme Court is giving the defendants a significant amount of leverage. The Court’s decision opens the floodgates to an unprecedented amount of power on the part of the defense. It gives defendants grounds for suit not only when they are not told about a potential deal, but also when an attorney advises against taking a deal. In Lafler v. Cooper, the Court decided that the…show more content…
Defendants who have more money naturally have access to the best legal counsel and, in turn, better plea negotiators. This puts an unfair disadvantage on defendants who have less money. As noted by Lafontaine (2005), “The cost of legal representation through the process inevitably requires increasingly substantial legal fees simply to navigate the intake procedures. It may well be that, particularly for those defendants unable to qualify for legal aid assistance but with finite resources, the resources consumed by the intake period put the cost of an effective defence at trial beyond their financial reach” (p. 113). The financial pressure of trials for both the defendant and the prosecution is a large motivating factor in the decision to negotiate a plea agreement. That said, the stakes are much higher for those who have less money. Once again, the plea bargaining system tips in the favor of defendants who have more power and wealth, competing with our idealized version of a criminal justice

More about The Plea Bargaining In The Criminal Justice System

Open Document