Bordenkircher v. Hayes
Pro And Con: Plea Bargaining
Accused criminals are often offered opportunities to plead guilty to a lesser charges rather than go to trial and risk conviction under more severe charges. For instance, a prosecutor may offer to charge a litigant with manslaughter as opposed to trying to fight for a murder conviction. In such cases, manslaughter carries with it a lighter sentence. Detractors of plea bargaining claim that it the practice is misguided; that plea bargains result in convictions for crimes other than those that are actually committed. They also believe that innocent people may be pressured to plead guilty to crimes they have not committed. Finally, and perhaps most vehemently, that it is simply unfair, because criminals receive lighter penalties than they deserve.
The defenders of the practice point out that plea bargaining has advantages for the defendant and the state as well. As well as receiving a lighter punishment, the defendant is spared the cost of defense and may also avoid the greater publicity surrounding a case that goes to trial. The state is better able to prosecute more cases within its given budget. This also means that the state is more easily able to fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide a speedy trial. Further, in certain serious cases the intent of the defendant must be determined, which can be extremely difficult. Thus it may be better for a prosecutor to accept a certain guilty plea to a lesser charge than to risk acquittal.