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How race may affect plea deals

Nonwhites in Texas who are offered plea deals in criminal cases may not be getting the same bargains as their white counterparts. According to a study of Wisconsin misdemeanor cases by a Loyola University professor, white defendants are more likely to get charges reduced, dismissed or dropped. If black people had no criminal history, they were still less likely to get their charges reduced than white people with no criminal history.

One reason is that a white defendant is more likely to have a higher income and thus be able to afford bail. Lower-income defendants, who are more likely to be black, might agree to a plea deal just so they can go home. Other studies have also shown that there is a racial disparity in how plea deals are offered, but this research is the most extensive.

Prosecutors wield a great deal of power in criminal cases. They can decide what kind of charges to bring and whether or not to set bail. The researcher who carried out the study argued that prosecutors use race as a factor in making these decisions.

People who are thinking about how to handle their criminal defense may want to keep this information in mind. In some cases, a plea deal may be a good idea for a defendant. If the penalties a person is facing are severe and there is a good deal of evidence, a plea bargain could offer a significant reduction in punishment. In other cases, however, a defendant might prefer to plead innocent. An attorney might also investigate the circumstances surrounding the charges to find out if the person's rights were violated. If so, evidence or the case could be dismissed.

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