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NEWS

Short Update: Risk of coercive pleas heightened in US during COVID-19 pandemic

FT Admin - June 24, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, Delayed or accelerated proceedings, Rule of Law, Extended pre-trial detention, Access to a lawyer, Remote Justice

A law professor has detailed the heightened risk of coercive pleas during the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing that “coercive pleas are part and parcel of the criminal system, but the current crisis provides several avenues for even greater abuse of defendants through the plea process.” 

They consider the particular concerns related to plea bargaining during the COVID-19 crisis, “including (i) the particularised fear of a prison or jail sentence during a pandemic, (ii) the difficulty with holding – or complete lack of – jury trials, and (iii) issues with access to counsel and other procedural challenges that defendants will face during and after the crisis.” 

They also offer some solutions to mitigate the risk of coercive pleas, such as “encouraging criminal courts to think about holding jury trials via video,” defining several ways in which judges can take a more active role in protecting against coercive pleas during the pandemic, and exploring “the opportunities for creative problem solving that can outlast the virus.” 

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