Bordenkircher v. Hayes was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1978. In this case, the Court addressed the issue of whether it is constitutional for a prosecutor to threaten to bring more serious charges against a defendant in an effort to persuade them to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
The Court ruled that it is constitutional for a prosecutor to engage in such conduct, as long as the prosecutor has a good faith basis for believing that the additional charges are warranted and is not trying to coerce the defendant into pleading guilty. The Court held that the prosecutor’s conduct must be evaluated in the context of the entire plea negotiation process and that the defendant’s decision to plead guilty must be voluntary and knowing.
This case is significant in the criminal justice context because it established that prosecutors have some latitude in negotiating plea deals with defendants and that defendants may be subject to increased charges if they choose to go to trial. However, the Court also made it clear that prosecutors must act in good faith and may not engage in tactics that are designed to coerce a guilty plea.