Should Plea Bargaining Be Abolished?

Plea bargaining is a controversial part of the justice process.

Plea bargaining should be abolished

Arguments for abolition of plea bargaining raise issues of rights, fairness, and just punishment.

  1. Plea bargaining is unfair because defendants forfeit some of their rights, including the right to trial by jury.

  2. Plea bargaining allow criminals to defeat justice, thus diminishing the public's respect for the criminal justice process.

  3. The practice of giving criminals who plea bargain lighter sentences results in unjust sentences in which the punishment is too lenient given the severity of the crime.

  4. Plea bargaining raises the possibility that innocent people will plead guilty to crimes they didn't commit.

Plea bargaining should not be abolished

Defenders of plea bargaining stress its practical benefits.

  1. Plea bargaining allows criminal justice personnel to individualize punishments and make them less severe.

  2. Plea bargaining is an administrative necessity—without it, courts would be flooded and the justice process would get bogged down.

  3. Plea bargaining saves the prosecution, the courts, and the defendant the costs of going to trial.

Evaluating plea bargaining

Because of the practical benefits of plea bargaining, it is doubtful it will be eliminated anytime soon. At this time, the consensus is that any injustice and unfairness that plea bargaining may introduce into the justice process is at least offset by benefits flowing to both the state and the defendant.