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Plea bargaining: Can Alaska live without it?
The 3,586 case files involved about 2,300 defendants processed through the criminal justice system during the year before the policy banning plea bargaining went into effect (Year I) and the year following the adoption of the policy (Year II). The cases were traced through the court system. Variables on the cases - offender's age, sex, race, income, offense, and type of defense attorney - were collected, and six classes of statutory offenses were described. Statistical evidence shows that plea bargaining occurred in only 4 to 12 percent of conviction cases in Year II, a drastic reduction from Year I. Interview responses indicate that plea bargaining has almost disappeared and charge bargaining has declined. Private lawyers complained that they are required to do more motion practice and trial preparation since plea bargaining has been banned. Prosecutors agreed that the ban has made their jobs more difficult but report they are happy to be relieved of sentencing responsibilities. From Year I to Year II, the average processing time for a felony case was reduced from 192.1 days to 89.5 days, trials increased by 97 percent in Anchorage and 57 percent in Fairbanks, and trial convictions were up 11.3 percent. Sentences were more severe in Year II. The number of defendants receiving prison sentences longer than 30 days for violent crimes increased by 6 percent, defendants indicated on property crimes received sentences that were 53 percent longer, and persons convicted of fraud and forgery and for drug crimes obtained sentences that were 117 and 233 percent more severe, respectively. Issues in plea bargaining use are reviewed and tabular data are provided. source
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