Plea Bargain Definition

Learn about the definition, process, examples, and statistics of plea bargains in the legal system. Discover how defendants can benefit from reduced charges and sentences.

What is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant in a criminal case, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence. This is a common practice in the legal system to expedite cases and reduce the burden on the courts.

How Does a Plea Bargain Work?

In a plea bargain, the defendant admits guilt to a lesser offense than the one they were initially charged with. This can result in a reduced sentence, probation, or other leniencies from the court. In return, the defendant spares the time and expense of a trial, and the prosecutor secures a conviction without going through the trial process.

Examples of Plea Bargains

For example, a person charged with robbery may agree to plead guilty to theft in exchange for a lighter sentence. Another example is a defendant in a drug possession case agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser drug charge in exchange for probation instead of jail time.

Case Studies

One high-profile case involving a plea bargain is that of Michael Vick, a former NFL quarterback who pleaded guilty to dogfighting charges in exchange for a reduced sentence. Another example is the case of Whitey Bulger, a notorious mob boss who made a plea deal in exchange for providing information on criminal activities.

Statistics on Plea Bargains

According to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 90% of criminal cases in the United States are resolved through plea bargains. This shows the prevalence and importance of plea bargains in the legal system.

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