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ALASKA'S BAN ON PLEA BARGAINING

NCJ Number
59919
Date Published
January 1979
Length
17 pages
Author(s)
M L RUBINSTEIN, T J WHITE
Agencies
NIJ-Sponsored
Annotation
THIS 2-YEAR STUDY BY THE ALASKA JUDICIAL COUNCIL EXAMINES THE IMPACT OF THE STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S 1975 ORDER TO END PLEA BARGAINING AND SUGGESTS THE NEED TO REEXAMINE CONTEMPORARY THINKING ABOUT PLEA BARGAINING.
Abstract
BEFORE THIS POLICY WAS ADOPTED, PLEA BARGAINING HAD BECOME FULLY INSTITUTIONALIZED IN THE STATE, AND IT ENJOYED TOTAL JUDICIAL ACCEPTANCE. IN MARCH 1976 THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE GAVE THE ALASKA JUDICIAL COUNCIL A GRANT TO STUDY WHETHER THE POLICY OF ENDING SUCH BARGAINING HAD BEEN CARRIED OUT AND TO ASSESS ITS EFFECTS ON THE STATE'S CRIMINAL JSUTICE SYSTEM. OVER 400 INTERVIEWS WERE CONDUCTED FROM 1975 TO 1978 WITH MOST OF THE STATE'S JUDGES, PROSECUTORS, AND DEFENSE ATTORNEYS. IN ADDITION, STATISTICAL DATA WERE COMPILED FROM 3,586 CASE FILES INVOLVING ABOUT 2,300 DEFENDANTS PROCESSED A YEAR BEFORE AND A YEAR AFTER THE SYSTEM WENT INTO EFFECT. EVIDENCE SUGGESTS THAT EXPLICIT PLEA BARGAINING HAS BEEN SUBSTANTIALLY REDUCED WITHOUT A NOTICEABLE INCREASE IN IMPLICIT BARGAINING. IN ADDITION, THE STATE SUPREME COURT HAS EFFECTIVELY TERMINATED THE POSSIBILITY OF PLEA BARGAINING BY JUDGES. INSTEAD OF GREATLY INCREASING THE NUMBER OF COURT CASES, TERMINATING PLEA BARGAINING HAS LED TO ONLY A MODEST INCREASE IN COURT CASES, WHILE HAVING THE UNEXPECTED RESULT OF IMPROVING THE PRODUCTIVITY OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. THE TURNING OVER OF SENTENCING AUTHORITY TO JUDGES HAS RESULTED IN HARSHER SENTENCES, BUT HAS HAD LITTLE ADDITIONAL IMPACT ON THE TRADITIONAL HARSH SENTENCING OF PERSONS CONVICTED OF VIOLENT CRIMES. ALSO, THE TIME REQUIRED TO DISPOSE OF COURT CASES HAS BEEN REDUCED. ALTHOUGH THIS REFORM HAS RIGIDIFIED SENTENCING RESPONSES TO CONVICTED CRIMINALS, TOO MUCH DISCRETION AND POTENTIAL FOR ABUSE REMAIN IN JUDGES' HANDS. IN ADDITION, IT IS EVIDENT THAT DEFENDANTS WHO ELECT TO GO TO TRIAL STILL RECEIVE HARSHER SENTENCES THAN THOSE WHO PLEAD GUILTY. ALSO, IT HAS BEEN FOUND THAT RACE, INCOME, AND EMPLOYMENT STATUS HAVE AN IMPACT ON SENTENCING DECISIONS. STATISTICAL TABLES, CHARTS, FOOTNOTES, AND REFERENCES ARE INCLUDED. (KCP)
Date Created: December 30, 1979