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Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Plea Bargaining Scam

I liked this pdf on the Cato Institute website. The right of trial by jury has been repealed by overzealous prosecutors. They tell suspects "plea bargain", or "we'll convict you of additional offenses". So many things are crimes that it pays for someone to accept the plea bargain rather than face an actual trial and risk more prison time. In many ways, the outcome of an actual trial is extremely unfair. The procedural rules are biased in favor of the government. Therefore, even if not guilty, it's in your best interests to accept a plea bargain.

The red market punishes people who refuse to plea bargain by giving them harsher sentences. This effectively repeals trial by jury.

Because so few crimes are actually tried by a jury, there's no way to tell if the government is being overzealous. There's no way of knowing if 20% or 80% of those people would have received an acquittal at a trial.

One source said that, in a fairer justice system, a random sample of plea bargain cases should go to trial anyway. If convicted, the plea bargain holds. If acquitted, the person coerced into a plea bargain is set free. This way, it would be possible to tell if prosecutors are being overzealous in their pursuit of plea bargains. Ideally, only a small % (0%?) of those people who accept a plea bargain would have been acquitted in an actual trial.

The government threatens people with additional prison time if they refuse to plea bargain. A plea agreement is not really a valid agreement. It was entered under duress, and therefore is an invalid adhesion contract.

Mandatory sentencing guidelines make the situation worse. Someone who plea bargains gets a 2 year prison term, whereas someone who goes to trial and loses gets a 20 year prison term. These odds coerce people into accepting a plea bargain.

Abuse of plea bargains is one of many ways that government has eroded the rights of individuals.

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