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Plea Deals for Wisconsin Criminals Sometimes Influenced by Victims

For those who are facing criminal charges, the state of Wisconsin gives victims in criminal cases the opportunity to discuss plea agreements with prosecutors. Wisconsin has offered victims the ability to participate in the process and strongly advocates victims' rights.

Victims are limited in the role that they may play. They are only able to discuss possible outcomes, agreements, and sentences and can give their opinion on what they think should happen. Prosecutors believe that this benefits the victim by letting them see how plea negotiation works, instead of wondering why the person accused of the crime is getting what seems to be a lesser sentence.

For one man accused of sexual assault, he saw a second-degree sexual assault charge dropped against him because the families of the victims agreed to drop the charge. However, in accepting this agreement, the man also agreed to plead guilty to the other two charges. The families now know that the man is facing over 30 years in prison and will be listed as a sex offender.

In this case, being able to consider the opinion of the victims' families sped up the process altogether, avoiding a trial scenario. While going to trial may have resulted in harsher penalties for the man, it would have forced the two victims to testify in front of the man in court.

Both the prosecution and the judge exercise judgment over whether a victim's opinion should influence the outcome of a plea agreement. Thus far it seems that this sort of arrangement benefits both the victim and the accused. The victim no longer feels powerless within the legal system and the accused may be able to plead guilty to fewer charges with lesser penalties.

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette online, "Wisconsin allows victims to have say in criminal cases," Jim Collar, 1 November 2010

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