Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Plea bargaining refers to the practice, common in U.S. courts, wherein a criminal defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for leniency by the prosecutor or district attorney. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 95 percent of criminal convictions in U.S. courts are obtained through guilty pleas. Although it is not clear what percentage of guilty pleas entail an explicit “bargain” (i.e., defendants may plead guilty without any formal agreement), it is likely that most guilty pleas include some concession on the part of the prosecutor, or at least the assurance that the judge will be more lenient. Three types of plea bargains are most common. Charge bargaining refers to the defendant pleading guilty to a less serious offense or to fewer charges than would be brought if the case went to trial. For example, a charge of first degree murder may be dismissed if the defendant agrees sentence ...