NACDL - Anatomy of a Plea

Anatomy of a Plea

Trials are diminishing at all levels. Guilty pleas are the foundation of the criminal justice system. Exhaustion and helplessness work to wear down criminal defendants throughout the pretrial process. Seeing packed courtrooms and hearing that the prosecutor “lost the file” – which requires the case to be adjourned until a later date – have a nontrivial effect on a defendant’s decision-making. Also, pleas are frequently sold to defendants as the best alternative to an intractable situation. What are the solutions?