Pleading guilty does NOT mean that person is guilty

Discussion in 'Law & Justice' started by kazenatsu, Apr 16, 2022.

  1. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

    Joined:
    May 15, 2017
    Messages:
    28,007
    Likes Received:
    8,764
    Trophy Points:
    113
    There are a lot of people who very ignorantly and naively believe that if someone pleads guilty to a crime, that means they committed the crime.

    This is an extremely common falsely held misconception in society.
    If someone did not commit a crime, why would they plead guilty? Isn't that person admitting guilt if they plead guilty?

    In older times, it used to be common to torture prisoners to obtain a confession out of them. Then the authorities would tell the public "This person confessed." Then a lot of the gullible public would believe that person was indeed guilty.

    The modern court system pressures and coerces defendants into pleading guilty. This is not something unusual, it is very routine and commonplace. The system almost relies on it. It would cost too much money and consume too much resources to be able to hold a trial for everyone who is charged with a crime.

    What typically happens is something like this: A prosecutor will throw as many criminal charges as possible at the accused person. Very often there are several different laws that apply to the same law. The law is not inherently "fair". Even one law could allow someone to be sentenced to a long time in prison for a relatively small crime. When several different criminal charges are combined, it could theoretically allow someone to a very long time in prison for a relatively small crime.

    Then there is something else that is often the case. There might be enough evidence that they believe the defendant should be punished, but there still is some chance they might be innocent. In this case usually they will receive a much smaller prison sentence, because the authorities know there is some chance the person might not be guilty and could be facing unjust punishment.

    Now I know that there are some of you who will say "No one should be punished if we are not absolutely certain that they did it", but this is just stupidity and ignorance. One example of this might be if police find a large bag of drugs in a car with four passengers and are not sure who the drugs belong to. Another example might be if there has been fraud of a gigantic amount of money. It's very common in these cases for multiple suspects to be criminally charged even if the authorities are not completely sure each individual suspect was actually responsible. Better to not let anyone be able to escape the responsibility for their crime, even if that means there's a chance some innocent person may get punished.

    In this case, the accused person may be offered a plea bargain. If that crime might normally be punished with 12 years, they will be offered a plea bargain for 4 years. Of course if they reject this plea bargain, they are likely to be treated more like as if there was a certainty they committed the crime.

    Sometimes certainty is more preferable than risk, taking it to a trial where the verdict might go either way. Sometimes the verdict is very likely to be guilty. Not because the jury is completely sure the accused is actually guilty, but due to the nature of the crime or evidence, they believe the accused should receive punishment. But under the current system, the amount of punishment the accused gets is not really in the hands of the jury. There's not even really any way for the jury to be able to express what the probability is they believe the accused might be innocent, whether it is higher or lower, or whether they believe the accused should receive much less punishment due to some doubts about their guilt.

    Again, I am sure there are many ignorant people who will say "The jury should never convict if there is any doubt at all", but that's simply not how it works.

    In many cases the prosecutor will actually send the implied message to the defendant that, if they are willing to plead guilty, the prosecutor will drop some of the criminal charges, or not issue other charges against them, or will just take it easier on the accused, and use their influence so the judge will be much more likely to sentence the accused to less prison time. Prosecutors usually have a huge amount of influence with the judge. The judge might just make his decision based on the way the prosecutor's argument sounds, not based just on actual logic and facts. This is very common. The prosecutor can easily paint the defendant as a terrible person who deserves a long time in prison, if they want.

    Unlike what many people ignorantly assume, a lot of the decisions in the justice system are not actually made by the judge. Yes, the judge has the power to make those decisions, but very often that judge simply does not actually take any time to make that decision, they rely on the prosecutor and just make the decision that the prosecutor wants them to make. Why would a judge do this? Because it's easier, and the judge has a large number of cases and cannot carefully scrutinize the decisions in every case. There are many more prosecutors than there are judges.

    What people have to realize is that a lot of the decisions made by the judge are rather casually made and the system can operate almost like a conveyor belt. It can be almost like the judge is just there to put an official rubber stamp on whatever the prosecutor wants to do. If the role of the prosecutor was removed, the entire justice system would immediately screech to a halt because there is no way judges would have enough time to attentively look through and scrutinize all the facts in all their cases. So the prosecutor has a huge amount of influence in these cases.

    If you are being accused of a crime and are facing the potential of up to 30 years in prison (the laws are not inherently fair, and leave a huge amount of discretion up to the judge), then a plea bargain offer for 5 years might seem very attractive. Many defendants are simply scared into a plea bargain. Even if they believe there is a 50 percent chance a jury would be likely to find them not guilty, it could still be in their best overall interests to plea guilty.
    They simply do not know much prison time the judge is going to sentence them to.

    In many other low level cases, a defendant might be held in prison for one or two years before their trial. (11 to 18 months is normal) If a defendant is already going to have to be in prison for 2 years even if they are found not guilty in a trial, then it might not seem like such a bad option to just take a plea bargain for 3 years. In some cases defendants might even be immediately released from prison as soon as they agree to plead guilty. (Although usually the prosecutor will structure the plea bargain so they have to be in prison for another 6 months after they plead guilty, so it will not seem so obvious and blatant that they are only pleading guilty to get out of prison)

    In some cases, defendants are even specifically and intentionally punished because they chose to have a trial. If the prosecutor and judge believe the evidence is obvious and that defendant is just wasting their time, resources and taxpayer money by insisting on a trial, even though having a trial is very unlikely to change the outcome. There have been judges who have specifically told defendants this during sentencing, that the judge is adding on additional time and is not going to show mercy because the defendant demanded a trial. More often, a judge might be thinking this but not say it out loud, because some people might find that controversial and unfair, and it might create a basis for some other appeals judge to later reduce the prison sentence.

    There can be plenty of reason for a defendant to plead guilty, even if they are not guilty, even if they believe there is a high chance that a jury would find them not guilty.

    The only thing that pleading guilty really implies is that the accused believes there is at least a fairly significant possibility that a jury might find them guilty, based on the situation and available evidence. And sometimes not even for the same alleged crime! In some cases a defendant might plead guilty to one criminal charge just to be punished less for another separate crime they are accused of.

    Some people accused of murder will plead guilty just so they won't get the death penalty, because they are afraid of dying.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2022
  2. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

    Joined:
    May 15, 2017
    Messages:
    28,007
    Likes Received:
    8,764
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Here is just one example of a case where a man had to spend 32 years in prison instead of 10 years because he was not willing to plead guilty.
    It's even worse than that because, after finally being released after all those years, it looks like the authorities have changed their mind and decided he should continue to be in prison. If he had just pleaded guilty in the first place and not had a trial, his prison time would have already been long over.
    Man who had murder conviction overturned may have to return to prison

    The mathematical perspective called game theory tells us that, if you have a 50% chance of being found innocent, but if you are found guilty you will end up being given a prison sentence 3 times as long, then you should plead guilty, for the best chance of an overall optimal outcome. The risk of not pleading guilty would not be worth it.
     
  3. FatBack

    FatBack Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2018
    Messages:
    32,648
    Likes Received:
    31,061
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    It is because the system is lazy. The revolving door of the criminal Justice system.

    How much time do you have? I can tell you all about it.

    They're pissed off if you make them do their job and hold a trial. And if you do make them do their job and hold a trial and your found guilty, well..

    . they're going to punish you.

    How dare you make us get up out of bed and work harder than we want to....
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2022

Share This Page