“Plea bargaining is a defining, if not the defining, feature of the federal criminal justice system”(Brown and Bunnell, 2006). As a developed first world country built solely upon structure and order we hold our justice courts on an extremely high pedestal. In a majority of cases given to federal and state courts in the United States, most are found guilty and result in the use of a process known as plea bargaining. Plea bargaining is any agreement in which a criminal case between a prosecutor and criminal defendant resulting in the defendant agreeing to plead guilty to the charges in exchange for some compromise between them and the prosecutor.
In a plea bargain, at an arraignment, a criminal is faced with charges which are typically the utmost charges or punishment the defendant will encounter if they do go to trial. Defendants are presented with an opportunity to plead guilty to lessen the degree of the punishment they were to have experienced originally. Although being found innocent and clearing the charges is the best case scenario defendants are often encouraged to take the plea bargains because going to trial is considered as “risky” since it is impossible to predict the verdict of a jury. Prosecutors often decide to deal an offer because in order for the government to even conduct a minor trial of offense requires a trial by jury involving eight jurors and several witnesses, lasting about a day or more to run. The government must also pay all officials involved in the case such as the jurors, the judge, the prosecutor, and the police officers’ salaries or overtime depending on the case. In a trial, a jury consists of a panel of a sworn body of people chosen to hear and judge the facts of a case in the court of law.
The earliest forms of plea bargaining in the United States took place during the colonial era in the 1962 Salem witch trials when accused witches were told that if they confessed to being witches their lives would be spared but if they didn’t they would be executed. Many Salem magistrates encouraged confessions with an aim to find more witches and steer toward witches testifying against one another. These witch trials were later used as one of the strongest arguments of plea bargaining that will later be discussed.
However, as early as 1832 plea bargains were beginning to become a mainstream process in trials held at Boston. By 1850 the practice had spread to federal courts, and become a normal thing for criminals to offer to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. It was only until the civil war that plea bargains made its way to appellate courts. There are three main types of plea bargaining that all involving the reduction of sentences but each varies in their own way.