Plea bargaining is a bedrock of our criminal justice system. Governments simply don't have the money to take every criminal defendant to trial. They rely on the fact that a large proportion of defendants will opt for a plea deal if it means less prison time.
If you were charged with a misdemeanor, you might decide to plead guilty just to get out of jail and go home. By definition, the penalty for a misdemeanor must be less than a year behind bars, and most people receive far less than that. In many cases, a guilty plea results in no jail time at all.
When evidence of a convicted person's actual innocence comes forward, we imagine that prosecutors immediately ask a judge to void the conviction and release the defendant. We imagine the judge apologizing on behalf of the state. Later, depending on the circumstances, the defendant might be compensated for the time they spent imprisoned unjustly.
In the federal justice system, most criminal sentences are determined by formulas in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The guidelines are determined by an agency called the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
In many ways, news that disparities exist in the U.S. criminal justice system based on race evoke thoughts of Captain Renault, Claude Rains' character in "Casablanca," shutting down Rick's Café and exclaiming, "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"
When people in Milwaukee and elsewhere have been charged with a sexual offense they face potential consequences that can affect their lives and the lives of their loved ones in the present and future. A sex crimes conviction could lead to prison time, fines and the requirement to register as a sex offender. It is important that a person facing a serious sex crimes charge seek help in creating a strategic defense plan. A defense plan may help reduce the penalties the accused may face. In Milwaukee, a man who faced sexual assault and other charges has been given a plea deal for the second time.
In cases in which those accused of serious crimes face mounting evidence, a meaningful strategic plan may be used as a way to obtain a lesser punishment. Sometimes, it may be to the defendant's advantage to plead guilty to an offense if he or she is offered a plea agreement that will reduce the possible penalties associated with the offense. Recently, a Milwaukee man pled guilty to Internet crime charges in court.