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Study finds race to be an issue in plea deals

Criminal case defendants in New York may be more likely to be offered favorable plea deals if they are white. A study of over 30,000 misdemeanors in Wisconsin found that white defendants had more than a 70 percent higher chance of being offered a dismissal, reduction or dropping of charges than black defendants.

Bail is another issue that could be affected by race. Lower-income defendants are more likely to be black, and they are less likely to be able to pay bail. Therefore, they might end up agreeing to a plea deal just so they can get out of jail. White defendants, on the other hand, are more likely to be able to afford bail and an attorney to look into the charges. White defendants who did not have a criminal history were also more likely than black defendants to get reduced charges. The researcher concluded that race is a factor in prosecutors' assessments of recidivism when considering pleas.

Prosecutors have a great deal of power in a criminal case. In addition to deciding what charges to bring, they can also decide whether or not bail will be required. Ending the practice of requiring bail for misdemeanors and requiring prosecutors to record the reason that certain plea deals are offered could help reduce this racial disparity.

Depending on the circumstances of a criminal defense case, there may be several alternatives to a plea deal. For example, a person might want to have a court trial and plead not guilty. An attorney might uncover evidence of wrongdoing during the investigation or when taking the defendant into custody. In some cases, however, a plea deal could still be the right choice. The defendant may want to consider the severity of the charges and the likelihood of a successful trial.

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