A common misconception of the American criminal justice system is the belief that "an accused may only be convicted by a jury of his peers after a trial in which his defense lawyer and the prosecutor sharply contest his guilt." In a majority of cases, however, this scenario never occurs. Instead, the prosecution and defense usually make a deal; that is, the defendant agrees to plead guilty and the prosecutor agrees to make concessions in return. One study has estimated that guilty pleas account for ninety percent of all convictions and that most of these pleas are the result of plea bargaining. In short, plea bargaining has become an important part of our criminal justice system.
Despite its advantages, plea bargaining is not without its critics. One critic has written that when plea negotiations occur "the rule of law is invariably sacrificed to the rule of convenience.” Furthermore, plea bargaining may create a danger that defendants will be deterred from exercising their constitutional rights and, in some cases, may even induce innocent defendants to plead guilty. Other critics maintain that plea bargaining compromises the prosecutor's duty to enforce the law. Nevertheless, courts could not handle the workload if all criminal defendants insisted on a trial. In light of this fact, "plea bargaining is a bureaucratic necessity which has become indispensible to the administration of the present criminal justice system."
The practice of plea bargaining was expressly sanctioned by the United States Supreme Court in Santobello v. New York. Many issues, however, remain unresolved. This comment will examine the remedies available to a defendant who, having entered a negotiated plea, subsequently alleges that the prosecutor breached his part of the bargain. In this context, the relevant questions that will be examined are: 1) Was there in fact a promise? 2) Was the promise broken? 3) Under what theory may relief be given? and 4) What type of relief is appropriate?
Swick, Kevin L.
"Plea Bargains: What to Do When the Prosecutor Says No,"
University of Dayton Law Review: Vol. 6:
1, Article 7.
Available at: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/udlr/vol6/iss1/7