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If you are reading this, you must want to learn more or all you can about plea bargains and court trials. In this piece, we have thoroughly considered things you need to know about these two terms and provided you with the information you need to make the right choice for you.
What is A Criminal Plea Bargain?
Popularly known as a plea agreement or plea deal, plea bargains are more common than not in many criminal cases. A plea bargain is made between a prosecutor and defendant in a criminal case where the suspect pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a charge in return for a concession made by the prosecutor.
This means that, before trial, the defendant would either plead guilty to the original charge or guilty to one of the charges (charge bargaining) for a more lenient sentence (sentence bargaining) or the other charges being dismissed (count bargaining). Both parties in a criminal case, the plaintiff and defendant, often opt for a plea bargain to prevent a lengthy court case disposition. For criminal defendants, a plea bargain may also allow them to avoid a serious conviction at trial. On the other hand, defense attorneys may advise their clients to settle for a plea bargain where they claim that it will defend their clients’ interests and maintain a good relationship with the prosecutor.
Advantages of Plea Bargains
By choosing a plea bargain, defendants may enjoy several benefits, some which include:
• Lighter/reduced sentences or charges.
• Faster court settlements and case closings.
• A record may show that the offenses are not as severe.
Disadvantages of Plea Bargains
Plea Bargains also come with their disadvantages, some of which include:
• They are non-binding on the court; the court can choose to accept or refuse the settlement.
• If the case does proceed to trial, the defendant may or may not leave with a criminal record.
• There is a possibility that the defendant’s decision to settle for a plea bargain might have been coerced.
• Guilt is automatically established.
• Appeals may be impossible.
What is A Criminal Trial?
A criminal trial, on the other hand and simply put, is a court case set to resolve disputes brought by the government against a charged suspect. In many law systems, the defendant (indicted suspect) is entitled to a trial guided by the rules of criminal procedure and held in front of a jury. A defendant’s innocence or guilt is not yet established until a criminal trial is complete.
While criminal procedure differs across jurisdictions, it often occurs either as an inquisitorial or adversarial criminal procedure. The criminal procedure begins with a formal criminal charge with the suspect either being free on bail or incarcerated. The procedure also ends with the conviction or acquittal of the defendant. A jury or judge may decide a defendant’s fate at the conclusion of the trial.
Research conducted by Pew Research Center showed that in the United States in 2018, only a mere 2% of trial cases went to trial. The other 90% pleaded guilty to the charge made against them, while the other 8% had their cases dismissed.
Advantages of Criminal Trials
Criminal trials in front of a jury come with several benefits, including:
• An open system that is supposed to serve justice.
• Decisions of the jury are not supposed to be influenced by public pressure.
• Justice is supposed to be served based on fairness.
Disadvantages of Criminal Trials
Asides the benefits of criminal trials, it also comes with its disadvantages which include:
• The jury may be bribed to influence their judgment.
• The jury room’s secrecy does not give room for questionable outcomes as to how they reached their judgment, leaving no room for appeal.
• There is no right to a multi-racial jury; hence radical views/bias may influence their decisions.
• Judgments could be made based on hearsay, undisclosed personal bias, or politics.