Infographic with a felon,prisoner and legal justice scales. Caption "Plea bargains, the american justice system scam.

Innocent until proven guilty, the right to court appointed counsel and the right to a fair and speedy trial are all icons of the American justice system. Sounds great right? Well let’s see what actually happens to a vast majority of people that are arrested, whether guilty or innocent .

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The Great American Justice Scam: Plea Bargains & District Attorney’s


This article is not legal advice.

District Attorneys: Elected by statistics

A District Attorney (DA) is defined as follows:

“The district attorney is an elected or appointed official and is the highest officeholder in the legal department of the jurisdiction. The district attorney supervises a staff of assistant or deputy district attorneys.”

Source: Wikipedia


You need to take note of one word in the above definition, ELECTED. Yes, the DA is an elected position and is very political position to say the least.

When a DA runs for reelection there is only one thing that counts in the voter’s eyes, conviction rate. If 9 out of 10 cases end in a conviction, they are almost always guaranteed to keep their job. Now if that rate is say 2 out of ten then the voters may see them as weak on crime or incompetent. This sounds great right, 9 out of 10 conviction rate? We all want hard working elected officials in office that do their job right?… Or do we?

The Scam: Plea Bargains

In the year 2012, the Department of Justice reported a 97% conviction rate, does this not seem incredibly high? Basically what the justice department is saying is that nearly every single person arrested is guilty as charged. Common sense says this is nearly impossible.

Here is exactly how the DA gets such amazing conviction rates:

  1. The DA charges the accused with excessive or heavy charges making the possible sentence if convicted extreme. In reality you may not be guilty of most if not all of these charges.
  2. If you are unable to afford a good defense attorney then you will get a poor to mediocre public defender. You will not get solid advice or representation in court like you would from a good defense attorney. Most public defenders are highly overworked and underpaid.
  3. After you have been sitting in jail or at home on bail (if you are lucky) for a month or more you have had a lot of time to think. The possibility of facing the next 10 years in prison or whatever years is scary no matter who you are.
  4. Your attorney meets with you and tells you the the DA has decided to offer you a plea bargain, he tells you that it is your lucky day. The plea bargain could be 2 years probation, time served or 2 years in prison instead of 10.

This is where it gets hard for the accused. Do you risk going to trial with a crappy public defender? Do you just settle for the plea bargain proposed by the DA? Afterall a short prison sentence or just probation is a lot better than that huge sentence that you could get if you go to trial. Right?

The reality of taking a plea bargain

Taking a plea bargain is smart IF, and only if the evidence against you makes you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You will definitely get a lighter sentence if you do take a plea bargain rather than going to trial and being found guilty.

On the other hand there are an enormous amount of people that take plea bargains that would be found innocent at trial. This is one of the reasons that about 3% to 10% of convicted felons are totally innocent. They let the fear of spending a long time in prison push them into taking a plea bargain even though they would not be found guilty at trial.

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People do not understand the consequence of becoming a convicted felon.  Finding a job as a felon or an apartment all of the sudden become a monumental problem in many instances. If you are ever faced with the decision to take a plea bargain or not you should put a lot of thought into it and not take the decision lightly. If you do end up being convicted of a felony it may be a good idea to look into having the felony expunged if at all possible in your state

Felony Expungement – In a number of states it is possible to have your felony conviction either expunged or sealed. Imagine having your record swiped clean! Learn more here.