Defendants in Courts in Northampton County are being encouraged to take a plea deal; some say they feel pressured to plead guilty before they even have a chance to see the state’s evidence against them.
Better Not Say No to the Judge Who Says: This Is Your Best Deal
What would you do if you appeared at your arraignment ready to plead innocent and the judge said: today “is the day you get your best deal,” and that your case should be resolved today? You might be intimidated to the point of taking the plea.
That’s what happened to Bryan K. Weaver. The young man reluctantly accepted a guilty plea to a road-rage charge in an Easton court at his arraignment. He said that he felt like he did not have a choice.
Arraignment is most often the first step in the court process, but for about 80 percent of those who are arraigned in Northampton County courts, it is the last step. This means that these folks are pleading guilty before they have a right to see the state’s evidence against them and before their attorneys or public defenders can seek to contest the state’s case.
Some people who think that the evidence is against them may believe that accepting a plea to a lesser charge is a great opportunity. However, they are literally giving up their right to even examine the state’s case against them and their right to trial. For those who would like to fight charges against them, is justice really being served?
The county adopted this approach about two years ago to deal with an overly packed case docket. Court administrators like this new approach, as it saves time and effort and has for the most part eliminated overcrowding in county jails.
In the case of Bryan Weaver, the 22-year-old recently accused of disorderly conduct, he said he was defending himself against a driver who ran him off the road and attacked him with a golf club, but instead of entering a not guilty plea, he accepted a guilty plea and his case was resolved.
He told another reporter, “They basically force you…they tell you that’s the best chance you’re going to get or you’re going to get a worse plea.”