Plea Comprehension among Diverse Populations



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Plea bargaining has become such an integral part of our justice system today that the U.S. Supreme Court has stated plea bargaining “is the criminal justice system." While plea bargaining can be beneficial, it can also be problematic. Many researchers have expressed concerns with the widespread use of plea bargaining, as this is considered a “low visibility process” that can have lasting collateral consequences. For these reasons, plea bargaining has recently become a growing area of research, with many of these studies focusing on factors impacting plea decisions. Studies have found racial disparities in regard to plea decision making and outcomes, but the possible impact of language barriers among racially and ethnically diverse populations has not been addressed. Although there is a large body of research regarding a defendant’s competence to stand trial, the research related to a defendant’s competence to plead guilty is fairly limited, even though guilty pleas are required to be entered knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. The current study examined plea comprehension among foreign born and limited English proficient (LEP) populations and found significant differences in plea comprehension, with foreign born and LEP defendants having significantly lower comprehension compared to U.S. born and English proficient defendants.



Psychology, Forensic