Plea Bargaining: How far should the practice go?

Before we try to answer the question, let us begin to ask the basic question, what is a plea bargain? In legal definition, a plea bargain occurs when a person charged for a specific crime goes into negotiations with the prosecution (The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2008). Usually, the person courses his plea through the office of his defense counsel (Canadian, 2008). The conduct of a plea bargain may take several forms. One, the person may agree to plead guilty to some of the charges that he is facing, while the prosecution agrees to the withdrawal of the other charges the person may likely be prosecuted for (Canadian, 2008).

Also, plea bargaining may occur when the person agrees to be sentenced to a lesser sentence in exchange for a declaration of guilt before the court. Hence it is said that the conduct of a plea bargain is done before the action of the actual trial proceedings (Canadian, 2008). Also, the witnesses that would have been asked to testify in the trial proper would be spared from the witness booth (Canadian, 2008). Should the grant of pleas be commensurate to the crime? Should criminals be afforded the right to a plea bargain if the crime they committed is heinous enough, or should it limited to just felons with lesser accountability before the law?

In other words, should criminals get to plead out their cases without the proper appreciation of the facts and just get the proverbial hand slap? We are not for the establishment of a draconian system of punishment, nor for a system that is too soft on crime. What we want to establish is the basis for the grant of plea rights and the availability of the same by offenders. In the case of Blakely vs. Washington (542 U. S. 296), the petitioner, Ralph Howard Blakely, Jr. , pleaded guilty to the act of kidnapping, his ex-wife Yolanda being his victim (542 U. S. 296). The plea arrived at imposed a term of 53 months.

The judge, however, ruled that the correct term must be 90 months- 3 years over the standard for the crime (542 U. S. 296). The judge, citing that the petitioner has acted with calculated cruelty toward the victim, threw out the plea bargain agreement (542 U. S. 296). The case went before the Washington State Court of Appeals, the petitioner arguing that the system used in the sentencing deprived him of his rights to a jury trial (542 U. S. 296). The initial charge that Blakely faced was first degree kidnapping, lowered to second degree kidnapping and illegal use of a firearm (542 U.

S. 296). But upon hearing the testimony of Yolanda, the judge threw out the agreement and imposed an “exceptional” 90 month sentence on Blakely (542 U. S. 296). In arguing for the case, the state argued that the judge could impose the punishment if he found acts not on record in the trial to sentence a person (337 U. S. , at 242-243). The judge, therefore, reinforces the argument against the use of plea bargaining in that the accused must be made to face up to the full force of the law, and more, it circumstances warrant the decision (542 U. S. 296).

It is therefore argued that any crime, whether small or grand, should be punished and the punishment should be what the law stipulates (Mark Winston Griffith, 2004). Crime cannot be watered down by some means, any means, that will obviate the punishment that is warranted for the full dispensation to the victims. If justice takes on the role of just being expedient rather than just, then the whole structure of criminal justice would come to naught. It is like committing a crime, then getting caught, and being allowed to go scot-free on some crimes while just getting a slap on the hand for other crimes.

References Canadian Encyclopedia, The. (2008). Plea bargaining. Retrieved December 3, 2008, from http://www. thecanadianencyclopedia. com/index. cfm? PgNm=TCE&Params=A1SEC826354. Find Law. (2008). 542 U. S. 296. Retrieved December 3, 2008, from http://caselaw. lp. findlaw. com/scripts/getcase. pl? court=US&vol=000&invol=02-1632&friend=nytimes Find Law. (2008). 337 U. S. , at 242-243. Retrieved December 3, 2008, from http://caselaw. lp. findlaw. com/scripts/getcase. pl? court=US&vol=000&invol=02-1632&friend=nytimes Griffith, M. W. (2004 March). Deporting the bad immigrant. Gotham Gazette.