What is coercive plea bargaining?

| Feb 15, 2021 | Violent Crimes

A plea bargain is a deal the prosecutor offers you in exchange for a guilty plea to a crime. The deal generally will provide some type of incentive, such as reduced charges or a sentence that is lower than the one on the table if you go to trial.

Plea bargains can help to keep cases out of the court, which helps to prevent backlogs and delays within the criminal justice system. However, they are not always beneficial. According to the CATO Institute, many plea bargains become coercive plea bargains, which are damaging to the system.

The basics

A coercive plea bargain is when the prosecutor uses threats or coercion to get you to accept it. For example, the prosecutor may say that if you do not accept the deal, he or she will increase your charges or seek a more severe punishment than is what currently on the table.

The problem

Plea bargains in general have issues because they take away your right to a trial. They eliminate the state having to prove its case because you must admit guilt to get the deal. When a plea bargain becomes coercive, it causes even more issues because it is almost like a threat that if you exercise your rights, you will face punishment.

Another issue with a coercive plea bargain is that it encourages false confessions. Facing a trial and potential prison time is scary. You may not believe enough in the system to think that the jury or the court will see your innocence and feel it will be best to just take the deal the prosecutor offers.

It is about fear and not true justice. Coercive plea bargains undermine the criminal justice system and everything it stands for, which is a terrible injustice.