I don't want to hijack the thread, but I think that a large part of this is the downfall of the justice system and the legislature's poor attempt to make up for it.
I think the downward spiral goes like this:
Legislature makes too many laws.
Justice System (JS) gets overloaded.
In order to cope with overloading, JS begins to plea bargin the more "trivial" crimes.
Plea bargaining becomes the easy way out and becomes more widespread.
Legislature, responding to public outrage, ups the ante on more and more crimes.
JS, coming across more and more "trivial felons", pushes plea bargaining even further.
I've oversimplified it, and I'm sure I don't have it all correct and there are other points of view, but I think that I've vaguely outlined the decline and fall of the justice system. It's kind of like the whole car sales industry. They don't expect to sell the cars for full sticker, but they have to mark it up really high to still have something to work with once the consumer gets the discount they expect.
*Opinion worth what you paid.