A Plea bargain is an agreement between an accused (defendant) and the prosecution or prosecutor. Under such agreements, the defendant takes a guilty plea in exchange for a concession–a reduced charge or penalty.
If you’re facing criminal charges, the first thing to do should be to meet a Toronto criminal lawyer to review your case and offer legal advice. Always remember you cannot depend on the verdict of another case because the facts of each case are unique no matter how much they look similar.
Advantages of Plea Bargains
Entering a plea bargain has benefits and downsides as discussed in this section
Advantages of a Plea Bargain
- Eliminates Uncertainty
A plea bargain eliminates the uncertainties involved in litigation. For instance, the outcome of your case may be positive or negative–meaning you can be awarded a maximum sentence for a crime if found guilty. With a plea agreement, you know what to expect and hence, you can prepare accordingly.
- Speeds up Justice Process and Promotes Judicial Efficiency
Canadian prisons are congested with many people awaiting trial– meaning they’re yet to be convicted. Also, remember that justice delayed is justice denied. That said, plea bargains help speed up the justice process. Also, these agreements help reduce judicial workload thereby, promoting judicial efficiency
- Eliminates Uncertainty for Conviction
Prosecutors are also not sure whether the accused person will be convicted or not when the case goes to trial. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that there’s a chance of the defendant being innocent.
In criminal law, a suspect cannot be convicted without pleading guilty and this is where a plea bargain comes in. By entering a plea agreement, the prosecutor is assured of a conviction–this allows prosecutors to deal with other cases.
- A Plea Bargain is a Negotiating Tool
Plea bargains are often used to secure witnesses in large cases if an accused person agrees to testify against another person. Every person involved in a criminal case is sent to prison and the person who is most responsible for a crime suffers the most.
- A Plea Bargain is More Resourceful for the Community
Every police officer who was involved in the investigation of a case is required to testify if the case goes to trial. This means that law enforcement officers from different agencies will be involved and other experts, such as psychologists will perform a competency analysis on the accused person. Research shows that the cost of litigating a drug crime can cost over $70,000–and this is per incident. Considering that there are many pending drug-related cases in Canada, this figure can be astronomically high. A plea bargain can reduce the litigation cost of such cases by over$5,000 per case.
- Reduces Jail Population
The jail and prison population keeps rising each day in Canada and it’s a big problem for the government. Unfortunately, research shows that jails do not help much when it comes to rehabilitation, education, or therapy. Instead, they act as holding centers for criminals, who sometimes interact and become more hardened. With a plea bargain, the prison population can be controlled and the chances of criminals becoming more hardened are reduced.
Disadvantages of Plea Bargaining
The disadvantages of a plea bargain can include:
- Removes the Right to Trial
It’s the constitutional right of every Canadian to be tried in a court of law and by a jury. This means that a plea bargain coerces the suspect to waive their right to trial and it could be considered illegal if the defendant is pressured to accept such deals.
- A Reason for Poor Criminal Investigations
Over 90% of criminal cases eventually involve a plea bargain – meaning such cases do not go to trial. With such a high rate of plea bargaining, most criminal investigators are never serious. Also, lawyers and other law enforcement officials do not spend enough time preparing for a case because they know it will end up in plea bargaining.
- A Plea Agreement Still Taints the Suspect’s Record
Most people agree to a plea bargain to avoid jail time, particularly if they’re innocent. Unfortunately, this means that your record will have a criminal history because you entered a guilty plea. Also, you may be required to serve jail time or pay a fine. Although a plea bargain reduces the severity of the penalty of your case, it will still reflect on your record–meaning a criminal history will appear on your record.
- Judges Frown on Plea Agreements
The prosecutor and your lawyer can negotiate a plea bargain, but the final decision rests with the judge. Judges are not bound by the agreement your legal team makes with the prosecutor. They can still impose a longer sentence or impose other harsher penalties.
While a plea agreement can be used to free a guilty person, it can also send an innocent person behind bars that’s why it’s important to seek legal counsel if you’re considering a plea agreement.