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Plea bargains: Are they tools of abuse in Illinois?

When someone is arrested and charged with a crime in Peoria County, dealing with the criminal and court system can be a frightening and intimidating experience.
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    December 25, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- When someone is arrested and charged with a crime in Peoria County, dealing with the criminal and court system can be a frightening and intimidating experience. This is especially true when someone has been accused of committing drug charges like possession of marijuana, drug trafficking or the intent to sell. Depending on the severity of the charges, a person could be looking at a long sentence behind bars.

Commonality of plea bargains

According to The News-Gazette, 95 percent of criminal cases are resolved through a plea bargain. One Illinois judge fees that this process is a great benefit to the court system. Without plea bargains, the system would be overwhelmed. While there is some concern over the increasing use of this method and whether it can be used as a tool by prosecutors to coerce a guilty plea, the judge stated that he felt most plea bargains provide "a fair and equitable result."

Some believe that prosecutors threaten defendants into a plea bargain, telling them that if they don't accept the deal, they will go after them to the extent of the law and ask for the highest sentence possible. In the case of a person accused of committing a high-level felony offense such as murder or drug trafficking, the prosecutor could threaten them with a life sentence in prison.

The risks of going to trial

A recent study and case point out the aggressive attitude by prosecutors towards those who refuse a plea deal. According to The New York Times, the study, held by the Human Rights Watch, claims the following:
- In 72 percent of federal drug cases that went to trial, prosecutors used the person's prior criminal convictions to get a harsher sentence.
- In 24 percent of federal drug cases involving a plea deal, prosecutors used the person's prior criminal convictions in sentencing.
- People convicted in a jury trial of federal drug charges were sentenced to time that was three-times greater than those sentences for people who took a plea bargain.
- 97 percent of all federal drug cases are resolved in plea deals.

One recent case involved a federal defendant accused of drug trafficking. He took his case before a jury and was convicted. As a result he was sentenced to life without parole. However, if he had taken a plea deal, he would have received a sentence of 10 years.

Innocent people the victims of plea deals

According to Frontline, innocent people may agree to a plea bargain. One of the problems with the plea bargain process is the fact that defendants often don't know what kind of evidence has been gathered against them or how strong that evidence really is. A prosecutor's job is to resolve the case as fast as possible and may exert pressure upon an innocent person to get that guilty plea. Often these plea bargains offer a substantial reduction in the amount of time the person will serve and the person may feel that leaving their future up to a jury is just too big a risk to take.

Before someone agrees to a plea deal, it is important to give the offer considerable thought. People should speak with an experienced attorney about their case to make sure that they understand their legal rights and ensure that their case is heard.

Article provided by Borsberry Law Offices, P.C.
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