Plea bargaining is a commonly used prosecutorial method to dispose of a case without going to trial. A plea bargain or negotiated plea is an agreement between the defense and the prosecutor in which a defendant pleads guilty to a criminal charge and in exchange he or she expects to receive some form of consideration from the prosecution (Neubauer, 2002). Most cases never make it to trial and more than 80% of criminal cases filed end with the defendant entering a guilty plea. (Rein, 2007). The plea bargain was a prosecutorial tool used only regularly before the 19th century. However, after the Civil War the plea bargain became more common in the court rooms.
People plead guilty for a number of reasons, but the main reason is if they go to trial and are convicted, they would be treated much more harshly than if they plead guilty. For example, if a person goes to trial and he or she is charged with a felony, he or she faces a mandatory 20 years in prison, which is the case in federal court with federal drug crimes (Rein, 2007).
If he or she pleads guilty, he or she would be treated much more leniently. In some cases the difference can be incredibly dramatic.
Advantages and DisadvantagesPleading guilty instead of going to trial reduces uncertainty as to the outcome of a trial; in trying a case before a judge or before a jury of 12 people, the defendant cannot predict what ultimately will happen. Plea bargains are also perceived as offering the accused a freedom of choice. From the state's point of view, the main benefit of the plea bargain is that it saves time and money (PBS, 2005). Many acknowledge that the system would collapse if every case that was...