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Forensic Psychology and Criminal Investigation - Essay Example

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Plea bargain involves offering concessions in sentences and charges to encourage defendants to plead guilty and surrender their constitutional right of a jury trial. In operation, defendants who opt to exercise their right to a jury trial are deterred by fear of more prolonged…
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Forensic Psychology and Criminal Investigation
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Forensic Psychology and Criminal Investigation number Publish Introduction Plea bargain involves offering concessions in sentences and charges to encourage defendants to plead guilty and surrender their constitutional right of a jury trial. In operation, defendants who opt to exercise their right to a jury trial are deterred by fear of more prolonged sentences and severe charges; consequently, 95% of defendants normally prefer plea-bargaining (Grossman & Katz, 1983). Empirical research has revealed that higher crime levels and greater social emphasis on punishing guilty offenders leads to more plea-bargaining. As opposed to this, lower crime rate and greater social emphasis on not punishing innocent offenders’ leads to avoidance of plea-bargaining.
Plea bargaining is seen to let ‘professional’ criminals get off the hook too easily as they are familiar with the criminal justice system (Miceli, 1996). There are evident advantages for guilty offenders to opt for plea bargain as it significantly reduces their sentence as per the Sentencing Guidelines Council (2007) despite convincing evidence. Similarly, imprisonment may be substituted by alternatives such as home detention, probation period, or community service and even immediate release. Sexual offenders can greatly benefit by pleading guilty to violent behaviour instead of sexual charges that would save them from public registration, special discharge terms, and restricted parole conditions. A defendant who is found guilty of a serious felony in a jury trial on average receives a prison sentence twice of that offered in plea bargain for the same crime (Soni & McCann, 1996). The point of time in a trial when a defendant negotiates plea bargain is critical as it significantly affects sentencing. The Runciman Report demonstrated how knowledgeable criminals use plea bargain to their advantage when they are certain of the verdict, which ensues in a cracked trial (Runciman, 1993).
Criminal justice systems based on plea bargain subtly rob defendants of their constitutional rights simply on the excuse of lack of time or money to listen. In reality, plea bargaining creates unconstitutional conditions and exerts impermissible burden on a variety of chief constitutional liberties (Baker & Mezzetti, 2001). In consideration of this, Justice Powell contended (OHear, 2007):
“the implementation of a strategy calculated solely to deter the exercise of constitutional rights is not a constitutionally permissible exercise of discretion.”
Plea bargain deprives the defendant of three fundamental rights protected by Fifth and Sixth Amendments, namely, the right of jury trial, self-incrimination, and confronting hostile witnesses. Weak cases are more likely to enter into plea bargains, as it is difficult to determine guilt or convict defendants. Another motivation for innocent defendants to accept plea bargain is when they are unable to raise bail and are forced to live in jail or detention. Since, it can take years from a trial to be initiated, so instead choosing plea bargain is most likely to lead to a shorter sentence (Png, 1986). Statistics have revealed that 56% innocent defendants pleaded guilty to avoid official quasi-legal procedures, uncertainty, personal plans, care-taking responsibilities, and similar issues.
In light of the arguments presented above, I would take a plea bargain early in the trial if my defence counsel assured me that the burden of proof was too high. Alternatively, I would sit out and wait for the right time to plea bargain in case that my defence counsel told me that the burden of proof was weak or perhaps circumstantial. This position would stand true whether I am charged with a heinous or a non-heinous crime. In addition, it is clear that the real loser of reduced sentences due to plea bargains is naive offenders who fear and mistrust the judicial system due to their inexperience. The more experienced offenders learn to bank on the system to derive whatever possible benefit through plea bargaining.
Baker, S., & Mezzetti, C. (2001). Prosecutorial Resources, Plea Bargaining, and the Decision to Go to Trial. Journal of Law Economics Organization 17(1) , 149-167.
Grossman, G. M., & Katz, M. L. (1983). Plea Bargaining and Social Welfare. American Economic Review 73(4) , 749-757.
Miceli, T. J. (1996). Plea Bargaining and Deterrence: An Institutional Approach. European Journal of Law and Economics 3(3) , 249-264.
OHear, M. M. (2007). The End of Bordenkircher extending the logic of Apprendi to Plea Bargaining. Washington University Law Review 84 , 835-849.
Png, I. P. (1986). Optimal Subsidies and Damages in the Presence of Judicial Error. International Review of Law and Economics 6 , 101-105.
Runciman, V. (1993). The Royal Commission on Criminal Justice Report. London: The Stationery Office (TSO).
Soni, A., & McCann, M. E. (1996). Guilty Pleas. Georgetown Law Journal 84 , 1039. Read More
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