Unusual plea bargain raises serious ethical questions about plea deals
A Virginia man has entered into a plea bargain that will see him get a vasectomy in exchange for having a number of criminal charges against him dropped, according to Fox News. The man was involved in a hit-and-run and child endangerment case. Authorities said they proposed the deal because they were concerned about the man's ability to care for his current children, which currently number seven with six different women. However, the unusual deal has drawn plenty of criticism, with many saying it has parallels with the state's mass sterilization of the mentally ill during the 20th-century.
The man was charged with child endangerment, hit-and-run, and operating a vehicle with a suspended license in relation to a crash in December. In exchange for agreeing to get a vasectomy after being released from prison, the man had two charges against him dropped: failure to secure medical attention for a child and driving after forfeiture of a license.
The offer was made after attorneys prosecuting the man decided it would be in the best interests of the state if the man had a vasectomy. The man's lawyer says that his client agonized over the decision but eventually agreed to it in order to get out of jail sooner and be with his children.
The case has brought up serious ethical questions about whether certain offers should be allowed when coming up with plea deals. As the Washington Post reports, prosecutors and defendants are able to offer pretty much anything as a condition for probation so long as it doesn't offend morals. However, this latest offer has made many people uncomfortable. As one Richmond lawyer asked, "When does negotiating the loss of a body part become unconscionable?"
The case has also brought up unpleasant reminders of Virginia's past sterilization program. The 1924 Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act led to the state sterilizing 7,000 patients in mental institutions. That sterilization program was launched based on the now discredited belief that mental patients were unfit to reproduce.
Critics also pointed out that the vasectomy was unlikely to deter the man from recommitting a similar crime in the future. As the same Richmond lawyer said, "fathering children is not illegal."
Dealing with a criminal charge
While the above story is certainly unusual, it does show how people who face a criminal charge will often have to make difficult decisions when dealing with the consequences of the accusations made against them. How a defendant chooses to respond to a criminal charge can have serious effects on both the possibility of a conviction and the severity of a sentence.
A person who has been charged with a criminal offence should contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. With expert legal advice, defendants will have the help they need to make sure their rights are protected throughout the legal process.