Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 25, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952637 | Print ISBN: 9780761923879 | Online ISBN: 9781412952637| Publisher:Sage Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Plea Bargaining, Economics Of
A plea bargain is a voluntary exchange of concessions in which a defendant waives his right to a full criminal trial in return for the prosecutor's guarantee of a lesser sentence than would be expected after a conviction at trial. In adversarial systems, plea bargaining is made possible by the law's allocation of valuable, tradableassets to both sides. The defendant has a right to accept conviction by pleading guilty and thus to abort a full trial, and the prosecutor has discretion over the precise charges lodged against the defendant, which enables the prosecutor to specify, within statutory limits, the sentence imposed after a conviction, however it is obtained. Advocates argue that plea bargaining is made necessary by the uncertainty and high resource costs of adversarial trial procedures and the pressure of heavy caseloads, which together strongly incline prosecutors and judges to cooperate in maintaining the steady flow of guilty pleas ...