Plea Bargaining’s Innocence Problem | Thought Paper

A research was conducted which discusses the fact that guilty students/participants are more likely than innocent students/participants t...

A research was conducted which discusses the fact that guilty students/participants are more likely than innocent students/participants to accept plea bargain. 

Plea Bargain are ways to ensure a favorable disposition of a case and is also an agreement to allow someone accused of a crime to admit being guilty of a less serious crime in order to be given a less severe punishment. 

In the experiments conducted by different researchers, participants who are found guilty are more likely to accept a plea for they knew that the cost of a trial is worth the risk, and the reward from the plea bargain was not large enough to offset it. The Innocent participants on the other hand, who fears conviction , chose the option that offers the most rewards at the least cost which is accepting a plea deal and avoid a potentially lengthy prison term. Participants weighing plea bargains may consider substantive fairness and comparative fairness when deciding whether to accept or reject such plea.  In the study conducted, plea bargaining was addressed to the participants without the presence of a defense lawyer and that could have add another dimension in the discussion.

The main purpose of this thought paper is to affirm that Innocent people/participants who accepts plea bargaining are more potentially at risk.  Innocent participants refusal to accept plea bargain and to plead guilty made them believed that they could not be wrongfully convicted for committing such crime. Unlike those participants who are guilty indeed, they bargain for much lesser sanctions.  In contrast, those innocent participants who don’t want to undergo trial or run the risk of being imprisoned when convicted, choose optimizing a  strategy which basically offers the most rewards of less cost which is to accept plea bargains, especially so if the  deal contains probation to avoid potentially lengthy imprisonment or prison term.

In the article of Russell D. Covey, entitled “Signaling and Plea Bargaining’s Innocence Problem” " Plea bargaining’s innocence problem is, at bottom, the result of a signaling defect. Innocent defendants lacking verifiable innocence claims are pooled together with guilty defendants who falsely proclaim innocence. As a result, both groups of defendants are treated similarly at trial and in plea bargaining.” It is emphasized in this article that the innocent participants undergo the same process or trial with those who are really guilty of committing an offense.  The person might plead innocent but because of the fact that he or she is already charged, there is no option left but to less likely plead guilty in which it is so unfair and degrading on his part. Those who are truly guilty thereof should deserve the punishment for an offense but then again, they still have the privilege for plea bargaining. Accepting a lesser plea helps minimize cost for the innocent participants but then there are factors that must be considered and one of these is the agreement between the prosecution and the defense lawyer.  The prosecution protects the public interest and the defense protects the interest of the defendants. Even if the participant is factually innocent of the offense, this information cannot affect the plea prices if it will not be discussed to the prosecution or jury which basically means that they are still convicted for said offense.

In this situation, both innocent and guilty participants are given equal rights to plea bargain, may the punishment be lenient or harsh. The participants knowledge of innocence or guilt affects the bargaining process. Participants who perceives themselves guilty of the offense are more likely to discount their chances of trial or acquittal while those participants who perceives themselves innocent, believes they will be acquitted and that is the reason why most of them wanted to go for trial for it is through the court proceedings, their claim of innocence will be  justified.

Indeed, innocent participants who accepts plea bargain as sanction to an offense or crime not committed puts them at risk.  Pleading guilty for an offense, for they are left with no choice, despite the fact that their conscience is clear makes it so unfair for the person. While those who are guilty indeed are still given the opportunity to plea bargain for much lesser punishment.  Innocent participants take the risk of undergoing the rigors of tedious and lengthy trials which would basically hamper their studies, other personal obligations and responsibilities.


Covey, Russell D.  “Signaling and Plea Bargaining’s”

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