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Encyclopedia > Plea bargain
Criminal procedure
Investigating and charging crimes
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Charges and pleas
Arraignment  · Indictment
Plea  · Peremptory plea
Nolo contendere (U.S.)  · Plea bargain
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Portals: Law  · Criminal justice

A plea bargain (also plea agreement, plea deal or copping a plea) is an agreement in a criminal case in which a prosecutor and a defendant arrange to settle the case against the defendant. The defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest (and often allocute) in exchange for some agreement from the prosecutor as to the punishment. A plea bargain can also include the prosecutor agreeing to charge a lesser crime (also called reducing the charges), and dismissing some of the charges against the defendant. In most cases, a plea bargain is used to reduce jail sentence time or fines associated to the crime being charged with. Image File history File links Scale_of_justice. ... Criminal procedure refers to the legal process for adjudicating claims that someone has violated the criminal law. ... An arrest warrant is a warrant issued by a public officer which authorizes the arrest and detention of an individual. ... A search warrant is a written warrant issued by judge or magistrate which authorizes the police to conduct a search of a person or location for evidence of a criminal offense and seize the evidence. ... In United States criminal law, probable cause refers to the standard by which a police officer may make an arrest, conduct a personal or property search or obtain a warrant. ... A knock and announce warrant, in the American law of criminal procedure, requires that the officer tasked with the responsibility of executing the warrant must knock on the door of the home to be entered for a search or arrest, and to announce their purpose. ... An exigent circumstance, in the American law of criminal procedure, allows law enforcement to enter a structure without a warrant, or if a they have a knock and announce warrant, without knocking and waiting for refusal under certain circumstances. ... Search and seizure is a legal procedure used in many common law whereby police or other authorities and their agents, who suspect that a crime has been committed, do a search of a persons property and confiscate any relevant evidence to the crime. ... For other uses, see Arrest (disambiguation). ... The right to silence is a legal protection enjoyed by people undergoing police interrogation or trial in certain countries. ... The Miranda warning is a police warning that is given to criminal suspects in police custody or in a custodial situation in the United States before they are asked questions relating to the commission of a crime. ... Motto: (Out Of Many, One) (traditional) In God We Trust (1956 to date) Anthem: The Star-Spangled Banner Capital Washington D.C. Largest city New York City None at federal level (English de facto) Government Federal constitutional republic  - President George Walker Bush (R)  - Vice President Dick Cheney (R) Independence from... In the American common law legal system, a grand jury is a type of jury which determines if there is enough evidence for a trial. ... Criminal procedure refers to the legal process for adjudicating claims that someone has violated the criminal law. ... A statute of limitations is a statute in a common law legal system that sets forth the maximum period of time, after certain events, that legal proceedings based on those events may be initiated. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... A bill of attainder (also known as an act or writ of attainder) is an act of legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime, and punishing them, without benefit of a trial. ... An ex post facto law (from the Latin for from something done afterward) or retroactive law, is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of acts committed or the legal status of facts and relationships that existed prior to the enactment of the law. ... Criminal jurisdiction is a term used in the law of criminal procedure to describe the power of a court to hear a case brought by the state accusing a criminal defendant of a violation of the law of the geographic area in which the court is located. ... Extradition is the official process by which one nation or state requests and obtains from another nation or state the surrender of a suspected or convicted criminal. ... In common law countries, habeas corpus () (Latin: [We command that] you have the body) is the name of a legal action, or writ, through which a person can seek relief from unlawful detention of themselves or another person. ... The word bail as a legal term means: Security, usually a sum of money, exchanged for the release of an arrested person as a guarantee of that persons appearance for trial. ... An inquisitorial system is a legal system where the court or a part of the court is actively involved in determining the facts of the case, as opposed to an adversarial system where the role of the court is solely that of an impartial referee between parties. ... The adversarial system (or adversary system) of law is the system of law, generally adopted in common law countries, that relies on the skill of the different advocates representing their partys positions and not on some neutral party, usually the judge, trying to ascertain the truth of the case. ... Arraignment is a common law term for the formal reading of a criminal complaint, in the presence of the defendant, to inform him of the charges against him. ... In the common law legal system, an indictment (IPA: ) is a formal accusation of having committed a criminal offense. ... In legal terminology, a plea is simply an answer to a claim made by someone in a civil or criminal case under common law using the adversary system. ... In the common law legal system, the peremptory pleas (pleas in bar), are pleas that set out special reasons for which a trial cannot go ahead. ... Nolo contendere, in criminal trials, in some common law jurisdictions, is a plea where the defendant neither admits nor disputes a charge, serving as an alternative to a pleading of guilty or not guilty. ... A presentence investigation report (PSI) is a legal term referring to the investigation into the history of person convicted of a crime before sentencing to determine if there are extenuating circumstances which should ameliorate the sentence or a history of criminal behavior to increase the harshness of the sentence. ... Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses. ... The law of evidence governs the use of testimony (e. ... Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the process that courts will follow when hearing cases of a civil nature (a civil action, as opposed to a criminal action). ... Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of law that regulates governmental sanctions (such as imprisonment and/or fines) as retaliation for crimes against the social order. ... The prosecutor is the chief legal representative of the prosecution in countries adopting the common law adversarial system or the civil law inquisitorial system. ... A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute. ... In legal terminology, a plea is simply an answer to a claim made by someone in a civil or criminal case under common law using the adversary system. ... Guilty is also the name of: A number of songs: Guilty, a 1931 song by Richard Whiting, Harry Akst, and Gus Kahn, popularized by Johnny Desmond and later Margaret Whiting. ... Nolo contendere, in criminal trials, in some common law jurisdictions, is a plea where the defendant neither admits nor disputes a charge, serving as an alternative to a pleading of guilty or not guilty. ... Generally, to allocute in law means to speak out formally. ...


Plea bargaining in common law countries

United States

See also: Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Plea bargaining is a significant part of the criminal justice system in the United States; the vast majority of criminal cases in the United States are settled by plea bargain rather than by a jury trial[1][2]. Plea bargains are subject to the approval of the court, and different States and jurisdictions have different rules. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are followed in federal cases and have been created to ensure a standard of uniformity in all cases decided in the federal courts. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are rules that set out a uniform sentencing policy for convicted defendants in the United States federal court system. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Jury. ... The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are rules that set out a uniform sentencing policy for convicted defendants in the United States federal court system. ...

Under federal law, as of January 27, 2007, the maximum a plea bargains can reduce jail sentences and fines are 50%.

Claims in favor of plea bargaining

One of the key arguments in favor of plea bargains is that they help courts and prosecutors manage caseloads. In the United States, defendants have a right to a speedy trial under both the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as by statute. The meaning of "speedy" is not fixed in terms of a specified amount of time but is determined according to the circumstances. However, if the speedy trial is not held, the case is dismissed and the defendant cannot again be charged with the crime. (See: Double Jeopardy) By plea bargaining, prosecutors can reduce the number of cases set for trial so that cases do not get dismissed. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Amendment VI (the Sixth Amendment) of the United States Constitution codifies rights related to criminal prosecutions in federal courts. ... The Statute of Grand Duchy of Lithuania A statute is a formal, written law of a country or state, written and enacted by its legislative authority, perhaps to then be ratified by the highest executive in the government, and finally published. ... For other uses, see Double jeopardy (disambiguation). ... In legal parlance, a trial is an event in which parties to a dispute present information (in the form of evidence) in a formal setting, usually a court, before a judge, jury, or other designated finder of fact, in order to achieve a resolution to their dispute. ...

Thus it can be argued that the American criminal justice system would simply cease to function without plea bargaining, and that it forms a framework wherein the accused and his accusers can reach an agreement which settles the case once and for all, in what is hoped will be a spirit of fairness.

Another reason plea bargains are favored is that it allows criminals who accept responsibility for their actions to receive consideration for their remorse and for not causing limited resources to be expended in further investigating and litigating their case...i.e. it lets the justice-system skip the 'making them feel sorry for what they've done' and get straight to the 'accepted punishment.'

In other cases, a defendant may be culpable in one criminal matter, but have information that would help in prosecuting a broader or more significant matter. In such a case, prosecutors may agree to reduced charges or sentencing in the first matter, in exchange for the defendant's cooperation (e.g. testimony) in prosecuting the larger matter. In law and in religion, testimony is a solemn attestation as to the truth of a matter. ...

In still other cases, prosecutors may be certain of the guilt of the defendant in a matter, but the admissible or available evidence might not be enough to convince a jury of the defendant's guilt. This could be the result of a witness or victim dying prior to trial or certain evidence being lost or ruled inadmissible. In those situations it can be of benefit to both the prosecutor and the defendant to arrange a plea bargain; the prosecutor avoids the chance that the defendant could be found not guilty and the defendant avoids the chance that he or she could be found guilty of more serious charges or given a heavier punishment.

Plea bargaining also allows prosecutors to settle cases without forcing a victim to endure a lengthy court process or have to testify in a jury trial. This can be particularly important in cases involving fragile witnesses or victims (young children in sexual abuse cases, elderly people who have been victimized by relatives, seriously ill people and others).

Claims in opposition to plea bargaining

Critics of the system claim that the plea bargain system can put pressure on defendants to plead to crimes that they know that they did not commit, and that the outcome of a plea bargain may depend strongly on the negotiating skills and personal demeanor of the defense lawyer, which puts persons who can afford good lawyers at an advantage.

Furthermore, critics claim that the system can encourage prosecutors to overcharge at the start of a case which leads to caseload pressures or unusually severe penalties; one claimed example is young murderer Lionel Tate who received a lengthy sentence for killing a young girl. Finally, many jurists, especially in civil law nations, find the notion of plea bargaining contrary to the purpose of the law in which a specific action should be associated with a specific penalty. The introduction of a version of plea bargaining was highly controversial in France, see below. Lionel Tate at his 2005 booking for robbery charges Lionel Alexander Tate[1] (born January 30, 1987) was convicted of first-degree murder for battering a 6-year-old playmate, Tiffany Eunick, to death on July 28, 1999, a crime for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment without chance...

Lastly, the plea bargain may itself carry unintended ramifications. In some situations, notably where resident aliens are defendants in the United States, pleading guilty to a felony in a plea bargain should result in the criminal being deported. Because a state judge has no influence over immigration decisions by the federal government, a resident alien charged with a crime may take a plea bargain, plead guilty, and consequently be deported by the federal government for committing a "crime of moral turpitude." Such unintended or unforeseen effects of either a plea bargain or conviction at trial are sometimes called the collateral consequences of criminal charges. Collateral consequences of criminal charges, known as the Four Cs in legal parlance [1], are the results of arrest, prosecution or conviction that are not part of the sentence imposed. ...


Plea bargaining was introduced in India by Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2005, which amended the Code of Criminal Procedure and introduced a new chapter XXI(A)in the code which is enforceable from January 11, 2006. This affects cases in which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for seven years; however, offenses affecting the socio-economic condition of the country and offenses committed against a woman or a child below the age of fourteen are excluded. How we will justify the complainant against whom crime took place and or aggrived person.


Plea Bargain as a formal legal provision was introduced in Pakistan by the National Accountability Ordinance 1999, an anti-corruption law.Special feature of this plea bargain is that the accused applies for it accepting his guilt and offers to return the proceeds of corruption as determined by investigators/prosecutors. After endorsement by the Chairman National Accountability Bureau the request is presented before the court which decides whether it should be accepted or not. In case the request for plea bargain is accepted by the court, the accused stands convicted but is neither sentenced if in trial nor undergoes any sentence previously pronounced by a lower court if in appeal. He is disqualified to take part in elections, hold any public office, obtain a loan from any bank and is dismissed from service if he is a government official.

Other common law jurisdictions

In some common law jurisdictions, such as England and Wales, and Victoria, Australia, plea bargaining is permitted only to the extent that the prosecutors and the defense can agree that the defendant will plead guilty to some charges and the prosecutor will drop the remainder. The courts in these jurisdictions have made it plain that they will always decide what the appropriate penalty is to be. No bargaining takes place over the penalty. “VIC” redirects here. ...

Plea bargaining in civil law countries

Plea bargaining is extremely difficult in jurisdictions based on civil law. This is because unlike common law systems, civil law systems have no concept of plea — if the defendant confesses, that confession is entered into evidence, but the prosecution is not absolved of the duty to present a full case. A court may decide that a defendant is innocent even though he presented a full confession. Also unlike common law systems, prosecutors in civil law countries may have limited or no power to drop or reduce charges after a case has been filed, and in some countries their power to drop or reduce charges before a case has been filed is limited, making plea bargaining impossible. Furthermore, many civil law jurists consider the concept of plea bargaining to be abhorrent, seeing it as reducing justice to barter. For other uses of civil law, see civil law. ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ... Barter is a type of trade that doesnt use any medium of exchange, in which goods or services are exchanged for other goods and/or services. ...


The introduction of a limited form of plea bargaining (comparution sur reconnaissance préalable de culpabilité or CRPC, often summarized as plaider coupable) was highly controversial in France. In this system, the public prosecutor could propose to suspects of relatively minor crimes a penalty not exceeding one year in prison; the deal, if accepted, had to be accepted by a judge. Opponents, most specifically attorneys and left-wing parties, argued that plea bargaining would gravely infringe on the rights of defense, the long-standing constitutional right of presumption of innocence, the rights of suspects in police custody, and the right to a fair trial. [1][2][3] For instance, Robert Badinter argued that plea bargaining would give too much power to the public prosecutor, and would incite defendants to accept a sentence simply to avoid the risk of a bigger sentence in a trial, even if they did not really deserve it. Only a small minority of criminal cases are settled by CRPC: in 2005, out of 530000 decisions by correctional courts, only 21000 were CRPC.[3] An attorney is someone who represents someone else in the transaction of business: For attorney-at-law, see lawyer, solicitor, barrister or civil law notary. ... In politics, left-wing, political left, leftism, or simply the left, are terms which refer (with no particular precision) to the segment of the political spectrum typically associated with any of several strains of socialism, social democracy, or liberalism (especially in the American sense of the word), or with opposition... Presumption of innocence is a legal right that the accused in criminal trials has in many modern nations. ... The Right to a fair trial is an essential right in all countries respecting the rule of law. ... Robert Badinter during a demonstration against the death penalty in Paris, on February 3rd, 2007 Robert Badinter (born March 30, 1928) is a high-profile French criminal lawyer, university professor and politician mainly known for his struggle against the death penalty. ...


Estonia is another country where plea bargaining has been introduced in the 90s allowing to reduce penalty in exchange for confession and avoiding most of the court proceedings. In that country plea bargaining is permitted for the crimes punishable by no more than 4 years of imprisonment. Normally one third reduction of penalty is given.[citation needed]


In Italy, the procedure of pentito (litt. "he who has repented") was first introduced during the "years of lead" for counter-terrorism purposes, and generalized during the Maxi Trial against the Mafia in 1986-1987. The procedure has been contested, as since pentiti received lighter sentences as long as they supplied information to the magistrates, they have been accused, in some cases, of deliberately misleading the Italian justice. Tommaso Buscetta (in sunglasses), the first important pentito of Italian Mafia, escorted in a court of law. ... The Years of lead was a period in the history of Morocco marked by state violence against dissidents and democracy activists. ... Counter-terrorism refers to the practices, tactics, and strategies that governments, militaries, and other groups adopt in order to fight terrorism. ... Giovanni Falcone, one of the architects of the Maxi Trial. ... This article is about the criminal society. ...

See also

  • Michael Gorr and Sterling Harwood, Controversies in Criminal Law, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992.
  • Prisoner's dilemma

Will the two prisoners cooperate to minimize total loss of liberty or will one of them, trusting the other to cooperate, betray him so as to go free? In game theory, the prisoners dilemma (sometimes abbreviated PD) is a type of non-zero-sum game in which two players...

External links


  1. ^ Plea Bargains Findlaw.com
  2. ^ Interview with Judge Michael McSpadden PBS interview, December 16, 2003
  3. ^ Les chiffres-clés de la Justice, French Ministry of Justice, October 2006

  Results from FactBites:
Plea bargain - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1152 words)
A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case in which a prosecutor and a defendant arrange to settle the case against the defendant.
Plea bargaining is a significant part of the criminal justice system in the United States—the vast majority of criminal cases in the United States are settled by plea bargain rather than by a jury trial.
Plea bargains are subject to the approval of the court.
  More results at FactBites »



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