Sunday, April 1, 2012

Professor Dervan Testifies Before Congress

On Wednesday, March 28, 2012, I testified before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.  A portion of my testimony regarding plea bargaining is below. 
In closing, I would like to address one additional issue. While creating additional overlapping federal criminal statutes and significantly increasing the statutory maximum penalties for offenses related to prescription drug offenses may not result in greater deterrence of potential offenders or significantly increase sentences for those convicted, such legislation will perpetuate the phenomenon of overcriminalization and with it the continued deterioration of our constitutionally protected right to trial by jury.

Today, almost 97% of criminal cases in the federal system are resolved through a plea of guilty. As the number, breadth, and sentencing severity of federal criminal statutes continue to increase through overcriminalization, prosecutors gain increased ability to create overwhelming incentives for defendants to waive their constitutional right to a trial by jury and plead guilty. As my research has shown, a symbiotic relationship exists between overcriminalization and plea bargaining. This relationship has lead us to our current state and created an environment in which we have jeopardized the accuracy of our criminal justice system in favor of speed and convenience. In my most recent article, written in collaboration with Dr. Vanessa Edkins (Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Florida Institute of Technology), we discovered that more than half of innocent defendants will falsely admit guilt in return for a perceived benefit. As overcriminalization continues to create the incentives that make plea bargaining so prevalent and powerful, we must ask ourselves as a country what constitutional price is being paid when, even though we act with good and noble intentions, we create yet another law or increase yet another statutory maximum where is it not absolutely necessity to achieve our goals.
Click here for the Judiciary Committee website regarding the hearing. 

Click here for my full testimony, including several articles that were attached.

Click here for the video of my testimony.

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