Plea Bargaining


Write an 830- to 1,050-word paper in which you evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of plea bargaining. Address the following in your paper:

Define plea bargaining.

Distinguish between charge bargaining and sentence bargaining.
Compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of plea bargaining.

Describe how plea bargaining reflects or thwarts the crime control and due process models of criminal justice.

Format your paper consistent with APA guidelines.

Find and use at least one case where a plea bargain was done as an example in your paper.


Plea bargaining is a process in which a defendant agrees with the prosecutor to have the former plead guilty in exchange from a form of concession from the prosecutor as negotiated. In most cases, the defendant embraces the idea of pleading to a charge that attracts a less punitive punishment, or simply one of the charges if there are many (McCoy, 1993). The prosecutor must then agree to dismiss the other charges or press for a more lenient sentence to the defendant. This analysis will develop the idea of plea bargaining, its advantages, and disadvantages, interaction with the criminal justice system, and its primary objectives.


Ideally, plea bargains eliminate the uncertainty of awaiting a decision by a jury. For both the prosecutor and the defendant, the anxiety of awaiting the jury verdict as either guilty or not guilty is completely removed from the situation. For the defendant, the anxiety may be excessive if there are more chances of being found guilty and receiving a maximum sentence (Powell, 2008). This very factor is the main reason why defendants take plea deals. Maximum sentences or other with death penalties often move the defendant to negotiate for a deal. For the defendant, plea deals offer leniency and results in a lesser punishment where chances of being found guilty are extremely high.

Plea deals can also benefit prosecutors as the case becomes a guaranteed win. Therefore, prosecutors are able to move past cases and shut them down quickly instead of going through a lengthy trial process. Consequently, the court and criminal justice system can become less congested with more time and resources being made available to serve more cases. The justice system can become more sustainable and self-serving through the adoption of this process (Vogel, 2007). Finally, prosecutors often use plea bargains to aid other cases through testifying against co-defendants in the same case or in other related cases. Prosecutors will offer plea deals where they have chances of strengthening other cases and getting more serious crimes and suspects.

Even so, the plea bargaining process remains flawed and fraught with challenges. One of the greatest challenges is the fact that this corrupts or compromises the legal process with most guilty people agreeing to these bargains. The value of justice is thus devalued with victims and their families being extremely offended by the lack of accountability and punishment against these crimes. Other ways in which this compromises the legal process is by creating uncomfortable situations that almost force the defendants to accept the deals even when they are innocent. It is clear that prosecutors who go into a trial with the intention of getting a plea bargain may not effectively investigate the case since the outcome is already predetermined in the negotiations (Tonry, 2000). Legal entities havedifferent opinions on plea bargaining as does the general public. To a certain group of people, this approach is regarded as completely unconstitutional based on the idea that every citizen has the right to a jury.

There are many acceptable types of plea bargains based on the nature of the cases, some of which include count bargaining and charge bargaining. In some cases, they take the form of fact and plea bargaining. In regards to charge bargaining, the prosecutor introduces the idea of the defendant pleading guilty to a crime that is less serious compared to the one for which he/she was initially charged (Waker, 1993). For this reason, he/she ends up serving a lower sentence instead of the maximum sentence possible. As an example, a defendant initially accused of burglary may plead guilty to trespassing, a less serious crime. A sentence agreement also includes the defendant taking the guilty plea after both they and the prosecutor have agreed on the sentence that the prosecutor will recommend. Often tied to other cases that the defendant can aid to, the prosecutor can negotiate a no jail time or reduced sentence with the judge.


The process of bargaining works by balancing the defendant’s upper bargaining limit with the prosecutor’s lower bargaining limit. In cases where this balance is not attained, then the case proceeds into the full trial. The process is still required to operate within the legal structures and may completely fail when it majorly does not comply with legal obligations. The legal considerations come into focus during the process of balancing the needs of the prosecutor and the defendant where there is a major gap. However, as plea bargains become more popular, the criminal justice system has began to reconsider the benefits against the consequences that this process creates (Waker, 1993). The biggest challenge has been that even though the legal system provides structures of operation, more prosecutors have developed ways of moving around these structures especially where they can aid other cases of shut down a case that may drag bon a long time. In this way, the criminal justice system appears to be compromising its values and goals at the expense of convenience.

Research shows that almost 90% of criminal cases are finalized through different levels of plea bargaining (Powell, 2008). This further lowers the quality of investigation and the seriousness of maximum sentences. As a result, crime is somewhat accommodated with both parities being highly aware of alternatives. For these reasons, the plea bargaining process requires careful restructuring to ensure that it does not eventually lead to a situation that completely hinders the justice system by undervaluing truthful and accurate justice.


McCoy, C. (1993). Politics and Plea Bargaining: Victims’ Rights in California. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Powell, J. (2008). Constitutional Conscience: The Moral Dimension of Judicial Decision. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Tonry, M. (2000). The Handbook of Crime and Punishment. New York: Oxford University Press.

Vogel, M. (2007). Coercion to Compromise: Plea Bargaining, the Courts and the Making of Political Authority. New York: Oxford University Press.

Waker, S. (1993). Taming the System: The Control of Discretion in Criminal justice, 1950-1990. New York: Oxford University Press.

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