Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Risks of Turning Down a Plea Offer

Courtesy of TalkLeft comes this story about a former Miami police officer who was accused of having sex with a 14 year old girl. The prosecutor offered a plea bargain that would have allowed the defendant to receive probation and serve no jail time. The defendant turned down the offer, went to trial, and was convicted by a jury on three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct on a child. The judge then sentenced him to 20 years' imprisonment, followed by 15 years' probation.

***FOLLOWUP 12/6***
In Omaha, Nebraska, charges were dismissed in a case where a man was accused of sexually assaulting a woman he met through an internet dating service.
***FOLLOWUP 12/6***

The problem in these kinds of cases is balancing the need to protect victims and not discourage reporting, while also not allowing false or malicious claims to be brought without repercussions. In the case of the Miami police officer, if he was actually innocent and demanded a trial rather than plead to something he did not do, the result is unfortunate. If he was guilty, then the result was just. In the case of the Omaha man, the question has to be asked just how much damage was already done by the mere fact of the accusation. When accusations like that are made, there is a visceral reaction against the accused, and even having charges dropped may not make that go away. So if the Omaha man was, indeed, innocent, the result is still unfortunate. If he was guilty, then the result remains unfortunate.

***FOLLOWUP 12/7***
Thanks so much to pooh for pointing me to this post over at Cathy Young's blog on the subject of prosecuting people who make rape complaints that are not prosecuted. There's a good discussion going on over there, so go check it out.
***FOLLOWUP 12/7***


Blogger Pooh said...

You might find this post and subsequent discussion interesting and on point.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Kierkegaard Lives said...

Thanks for the link pooh! What a fascinating discussion on this topic.

2:28 PM  

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