plea bargain

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plea bargain

n. in criminal procedure, a negotiation between the defendant and his attorney on one side and the prosecutor on the other, in which the defendant agrees to plead "guilty" or "no contest" to some crimes, in return for reduction of the severity of the charges, dismissal of some of the charges, the prosecutor's willingness to recommend a particular sentence, or some other benefit to the defendant. Sometimes one element of the bargain is that the defendant reveal information such as location of stolen goods, names of others participating in the crime, or admission of other crimes (such as a string of burglaries). The judge must agree to the result of the plea bargain before accepting the sentence. If he does not, then the bargain is cancelled. Reasons for the bargaining include a desire to cut down on the number of trials, danger to the defendant of a long term in prison if convicted after trial, and the ability to get information on criminal activity from the defendant. There are three dangers: a) an innocent defendant may be pressured into a confession and plea out of fear of a severe penalty if convicted; b) particularly vicious criminals will get lenient treatment and be back "on the street" in a short time; c) results in unequal treatment. Public antipathy to plea bargaining has led to some state statutes prohibiting the practice, but informal discussions can get around the ban. (See: plea, cop a plea)

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References in periodicals archive ?
(10) See Stephen J Schulhofer, "A Wake-Up Call from the Plea-Bargaining Trenches" (1994) 19:1 Law & Soc Inquiry 135 (describing the "extensive literature argu[ing] that bargaining is unavoidable" at 139).
There are numerous implications for the plea-bargaining process.
Whether refinements and enhancements to the plea-bargaining process are introduced more broadly, one myth can be dispelled once and for all: a guilty plea is not and should not be regarded as a type of confession.
Instead, this Note suggests that we should look to the plea-bargaining process through the lens of an administrative model.
(16) Although commendable in their efforts to increase the realism and efficacy of plea-bargaining scholarship, these challenges are nonetheless of mixed quality, lacking direct evidence of plea behavior and occasionally manifesting a limited familiarity with the precise contours of the psychological evidence.
Alaska is the only state that currently bans plea-bargaining, but the practice has increasingly drawn more criticism.
As repeat players, public defenders have more plea-bargaining expertise, which should make bargains better, more trustworthy, and more predictable for defendants.
Plea-bargaining ought to be banned for any case, not just serious ones.
And, that's the essence of the plea-bargaining process.
In Part I, we summarize some of the negotiation literature, focusing on the small body of work that applies negotiation theory to the plea-bargaining context.