The Instigator
yash_sid
Pro (for)
Losing
8 Points
The Contender
Danielle
Con (against)
Winning
32 Points

In the United States, plea bargaining undermines the criminal justice system.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 7 votes the winner is...
Danielle
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/28/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,119 times Debate No: 14579
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (3)
Votes (7)

 

yash_sid

Pro

I am in agreement with the statement, "In the United States, plea bargaining undermines the criminal justice system." A plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between a criminal defendant and a prosecutor in which the defendant agrees to plead "guilty" to some crimes in return for reduction of the severity of the charges(source 1). Bribery, by definition, is the helping of someone to benefit themselves. Plea bargaining, similarly, is the government giving criminals a lesser charge to not waste their resources.

My first contention is that plea bargaining takes away the citizen's 6th amendment right to speedy and public trial. When plea bargaining, the defendant simply admits to some crimes, makes an agreement with the judge, and the case usually ends with a lesser sentence or charge. With this, we are taking away all of the usual parts of a trial such as police investigations, evidence, and other ways to find someone guilty. This defeats the purpose of putting someone on trial and does not follow our Constitution.

My second contention is that the punishment that the criminals will be released earlier, not only encouraging them to commit the crime again but also endangers our innocent citizens. By saying that they are guilty and admitting to some things, they have a chance of getting a lesser charge and can be sentenced to less time in jail. This not only disciplines the criminal wrong, it encourages him to do it again because he knows that he will not be charged with the proper amount of time in jail. If criminals were to know that they could get a lesser sentence or even in some cases a lesser charge, they would think that they could do it again. Also, criminals who plead guilty are potentially dangerous to the innocent citizens of our society. These criminals who plead guilty are being put back into our society earlier than they should. This means that they have more time to commit crimes, endangering the lives of our citizens.

My third contention is that innocent people are being forced to plea guilty and are being put in jail for a crime they did not commit. Erma Faye Stewart, for example, says her defense attorney encouraged her to accept a plea bargain when she was arrested in a major drug sweep by a police informant who was later deemed not credible. The thirty-year-old mother of two maintained her innocence, but says her court-appointed defense attorney didn't want to hear it. Even though she wasn't guilty, she was willing to plead guilty because she had to go home to her kids. After accepting the plea bargain and ten years' probation, Stewart was freed. What she didn't know was that under the terms of her probation, she would be required to pay a monthly fee to her probation officer. Within three years of pleading guilty to a crime she says she didn't commit, Erma Faye Stewart had fallen behind in her probation payments and been evicted from her home (Source 3). This shows how many innocent people's lives are ruined because they are forced to make a hasty decision and end up not being able to handle the consequences.

Overall, I believe that in the U.S., plea bargaining does undermine the criminal justice system. It is similar to bribery, can endanger the lives of innocent people, and even put some innocent people in jail.
Danielle

Con

Many thanks to my opponent for beginning this debate.

I'll begin by criticizing the blatant bias in Pro's opening definitions. He starts by defining bribery as "the helping of someone to benefit themselves." Clearly that is not true. Is a doctor helping a patient for pay bribery? Obviously not. The legitimate definition of the word bribery is money or any other valuable consideration given or promised with a view to corrupting the behavior of a person [1]. Therefore, my opponent's following statement that plea bargaining can be likened to bribery is simply not true. Plea bargaining is when a deal is offered by a prosecutor as an incentive for a defendant to plead guilty. Plea bargaining allows the prosecutor to obtain guilty pleas in cases that might otherwise go to trial [2]. Pro's analogy is a false one. While plea bargaining does operate on the basis of favorable exchange, it does not corrupt a person's behavior meaning it can not be akin to bribery.

Moving on to his contentions, Pro's first point is that plea bargaining takes away the citizen's 6th amendment right to speedy and public trial. It is important to note, however, that rights can be waived. In 1879, the Iowa Supreme Court held in State v. Kaufman that a defendant could waive a jury trial if he wished -- after all, defendants can waive other procedural rights, including the right to a speedy trial [3]. Additionally, "The U.S. Supreme Court held in the 1979 case Gannett Co. Inc. v. DePasquale that the public does not 'have an enforceable right to a public trial that can be asserted independently of the parties in the litigation.' That seems reasonable; while requiring jury trials may make sense as a matter of policy, it is not an inalienable right" [3]. If a defendant agrees to this procedure, it is probably because it is in their best interest as advised by their legal counsel. It doesn't mean they are being taken advantage of.

Similarly, if the prosecutor chooses to engage in a plea bargain, it is probably only after thoughtful consideration that it was decided to be the best option or last resort to bring about the most positive outcome. For example, if they know they do not have enough tangible evidence to win a case against a criminal, they may agree to negotiate a lesser penalty to avoid having the guilty party walk free on account of there not being enough evidence to prosecute at all. In that case - when the alternative option is NO potential punishment - plea bargaining proves to be a positive, effective and sometimes necessary tool.

Pro's second contention is that via plea bargaining criminals will negotiate lesser penalties, not only encouraging them to commit the crime again but also endangering innocent citizens. First, my opponent has not yet provided evidence that criminals are more likely to commit the crime again just because they served less time in jail. Second, violent offenses are far less likely to utilize plea bargaining. Generally the more severe the crime, the more likely a trial by jury will be utilized. This is because hefty penalties accompany hefty crimes, thus the benefits of plea bargaining are greatly reduced. The defendant would not simply accept a big sentence, so they will likely plead not guilty and take their chances with a trial by jury rather than simply accepting defeat and their fate.

Moreover, Pro contends that criminals who negotiate plea bargains will be encouraged to commit crime again because they know they can get away with their crimes repeatedly. That is not true given the nature of probation and parole.

Finally, Pro argues that plea bargaining provides an incentive for innocent parties to plead guilty. After providing an example, he writes "This shows how many innocent people's lives are ruined because they are forced to make a hasty decision and end up not being able to handle the consequences." I'd like to point out that this is a logical fallacy. Just because you can provide one example or exception does not mean it speaks on behalf of things as a whole or even majority. I'm willing to bet Pro cannot find me a plethora of similar cases.

Nevertheless, this contention is negated on the basis of defendants willingly choosing this option, meaning they have nobody else to blame for the outcome but themselves. Even in Pro's example, the alleged innocent party complained of having bad attorneys thus compelling her to accept the bargain. However in that case, she could have easily appealed a guilty verdict on the basis of her attorney being so incompetent that she was essentially denied her 6th amendment right to a fair trial [4]. One simply has to accept the consequences of their legal choices. For example, one defendant might choose to waive their right to testify while another might exercise that right. Doing so could help or hinder a case; it's subjective to the trial. It is one's constitutional right and perhaps responsibility to make choices like this in determining the outcome of their "trial."

As you can see, all of my opponent's arguments have thus far been negated and designated null and void.

My contentions in favor of negating the resolution are as follows:

1. The criminal justice system is not perfect. Our system is exceptionally overcrowded. A failed economy has made budget cuts - including in the justice system - entirely necessary, thus we have less resources to work with. Nevertheless, keeping the community safe is a top priority for government agents. A benefit to plea bargaining is alleviating the need to schedule and hold a trial on an already overcrowded docket. This interferes with a defendant's 6th amendment right to a "speedy" trial, and can definitely interfere with the case proceedings. Further, Pro talks about protecting innocent citizens, so letting arrested criminals out of jail on bail or bond while they wait for trial is equally if not more dangerous than them serving shorter penalties. Keep in mind that 90% of cases already use plea bargaining, so imagine what the system would be otherwise [5]. In essence, a lesser penalty is the reward for admitting guilt and avoiding an expensive trial. Keep in mind tax payers would be funding this lengthy trial (without a guaranteed conviction).

2. Judges are aware of prison overcrowding and may be receptive to the "processing out" of offenders who are not likely to do much jail time anyway [5].

3. As I mentioned, plea bargaining ensures conviction. This can be crucial to certain cases.

4. Prosecutors may use plea bargaining to help their case against another defendant. For example, one defendant might negotiate a lesser sentence in exchange for valuable information, evidence or testimony against another that prosecutor's deem more dangerous or to be the more important case. This ensures that prosecutors will definitely win all cases (albeit with some being accused on lesser charges) including those that would be difficult or even impossible to win without the available process of plea bargaining.

In conclusion, the process of plea bargaining does not undermine the criminal justice system but enhances it. While it is not a perfect process, our system is not a perfect system. However this option alleviates a lot of stress and unfeasible burden on prosecutors. It also guarantees victory in many cases to keep communities safe and ensure that justice IS served on some level. Overall the benefits make this a greatly advantageous process that far outweigh any potential negative effects.

Thank you.

References:

[1] http://dictionary.reference.com...
[2] http://www.expertlaw.com...
[3] http://www.cato.org...
[4] http://criminal.findlaw.com...(1).html
[5] http://criminal.findlaw.com...
Debate Round No. 1
yash_sid

Pro

i give up. you win.
Danielle

Con

Extend my arguments. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 2
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Danielle 5 years ago
Danielle
You wanted to see how your argument would do? Well, you posted your argument, I destroyed it and then you forfeited and refused to even continue your argument... so how you think your argument won is beyond me. Also, who cares if this topic's been debated before? There are innumerable resolutions on this site that have been debated dozens and dozens of times. Ah, well.
Posted by yash_sid 5 years ago
yash_sid
definitely not true. I had this topic for a debate about a month ago and just felt like posting it on this website now and wanted to see how it would do on this website if I posted my case. I honestly just don't feel like debating anymore as I see there is no point to it because this topic has already happened.
Posted by Steelerman6794 5 years ago
Steelerman6794
Looks like yash-sid just wanted a Con case and evidence to plagiarize for use in an upcoming competition.
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by WillMurray 5 years ago
WillMurray
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Vote Placed by Danielle 5 years ago
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