Issues/Ethics in Criminal Justice
Police Paper #5
February 2, 2011
Plea bargaining has come to dominate the administration of justice in America. According to one legal scholar, “Every two seconds during a typical workday, a criminal case is disposed of in an American courtroom by way of a guilty plea or nolo contender plea.” Even though plea bargaining pervades the justice system, I argue that the practice should be abolished because it its unconstitutional.
Because any person who is accused of violating the criminal law can lose his liberty and perhaps even his life depending on the offense and prescribed penalty, the Framers of the Constitution took pains to put explicit limits on the awesome powers of government. The Bill of Rights explicitly guarantees several safeguards to the accused, including the right to be informed of the charges, the right not to be compelled to incriminate oneself, the right to a speedy and public trial, the right to impartial jury trial in the state and district where the offense allegedly took place, the right to cross-examine the state’s witnesses, the right to call witness on one’s behalf, and the right to the assistance of counsel.
Justice Hugo Black once noted that, in America, the defendant; “has an absolute, unqualified right to compel the State to investigate its own case, find its own witnesses, prove its own facts, and convince the jury through its own resources. Throughout the process, the defendant has a fundamental right to remain silent, in effect challenging the State at every point to PROVE IT!” By limiting the powers of the police and prosecutors, the Bill of Rights safeguards freedom.
Given the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition of compelled self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of impartial juries, one would think that the administration of criminal justice in America would be marked by adversarial trials – and yet, the...