The plea-bargaining process.
Plea bargaining is the process by which the prosecution and the defense negotiate charging and sentencing concessions in exchange for the defendant’s guilty plea or nolo contendere (Wan, 2007). The plea-bargaining process entails the State or Federal prosecutor proposing a specific punishment to a certain charge if the accused is willing to plead guilty to that explicit charge and waive several of their constitutional rights. Several types of plea bargains occur during this phase of the process, including charge bargaining and sentence bargaining.
Once the defense and prosecution agree to the specific terms of the guilty plea, the plea is then presented to the courts. The plea-bargaining process must be completed by the attorneys and the accused generally before the pre-trial hearing (Cornell Law School University, n.d.). The process is completed before the pre-trial hearing for several distinct reasons, but primarily to inform the courts of whether or not to prepare for a jury trial. Additionally, judges are not involved in developing the plea bargain because of potential bias that might occur if the accused does decide to plead not guilty and request a jury trial.
Elements required for a valid plea bargain or nolo contendere to occur.
For a plea bargain to be presented in a court of law, several elements must be constitutionally valid. The required elements include that individuals must submit the guilty plea voluntarily and intelligently from the accused and that the charges must have a factual basis. Additionally, the accused must have effective assistance of counsel when negotiating and deciding on the outcomes of accepting the guilty plea (Wan, 2007). The elements of the plea are critical when accepting the plea because the repercussions of consenting to a guilty verdict will impose the removal of constitutional rights and the right to a trial by jury.
Define the role of a judge in the plea-bargaining process.
Once the plea bargain has been submitted to the judge presiding over the case, the judge must fulfill specific responsibilities to the state or federal judiciary system. The judge also has duties that he must satisfy for the individual assuming his guilt or nolo contendere. First, the judge must decide whether to accept the agreement, reject the deal, or defer a decision until the court has reviewed the presentence investigation report (Cornell University Law School, n.d.). The presentence investigation report provides the judge presiding over the case with a criminal history background of the accused, which will aid the judge in deciding whether or not to accept or reject the plea bargain. If the judge does not accept the plea, he will then inform the accused that it was rejected and that the court is not required to take the plea bargain.
The judge will then ask the accused to withdraw the plea, and the judge could site to the accused that the plea could be more severe than pursuing a trial by jury (Cornell University Law School, n.d.). However, if the judge accepts the plea, he must inform the accused of its acceptance. The judge is then required to specify that the state or federal prosecutor will not bring or move to dismiss any other charges. Additionally, the judge is then required to state whether or not the agreed-upon sentence or sentencing range is the appropriate disposition for the case based on the Sentencing Guidelines (Cornell University Law School, n.d.). While overseeing the disposition of a plea bargain, the judge’s role is limited on his contributions since the court is directed by law not to assist or interfere with the development of the plea bargain that was presented.
I am in NOT in favor of continuing the plea-bargaining process as it exists today. My argument will be to maintain the current system that is in place.
As it stands today, the plea-bargaining process allows for the criminal justice system to work efficiently with the exorbitant amount of criminal cases brought to court annually (DueProcessTV, 2012). Plea bargaining allows for an individual that knows they are clearly guilty of criminal offenses to forgo the variable of allowing a jury to decide whether they are guilty of the crimes or not. Thus, if the jury finds the accused guilty, they will then face the punishment regulated by the Sentencing Guideline, which is generally harsher than the sentence proposed in the plea bargain.
The added benefit of plea bargaining is that the state or federal judiciary system will allow the accused to receive up to two or three times a lesser charge for pleading guilty, thus drastically reducing the punishment to be levied. If I were to be charged with a criminal offense, I genuinely believed, and my attorney advised, would be hard to beat in a jury trial; depending on the severity of the punishment to be levied due to the plea bargain, I would accept. However, if I knew that I did not commit the crime and criminal charges filed against me were bogus, I would request to take it to trial by jury.