What is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecution and the defense whereby a person accused of a criminal offense may plead guilty to a criminal charge in exchange for a more favorable settlement. Often times, suspects either face several criminal charges or a severe criminal charge with impending severe consequences. As a way for the prosecution to secure a conviction, they often offer a defendant a plea bargain. This not only ensures a guilty verdict on at least one charge a suspect may face, but allows the prosecution to speedily process a case. This saves valuable time and money and allows a prosecutor to take on a heavier caseload.

A favorable settlement for most suspects often includes one of the following:

  • a shorter prison term,
  • lower fines,
  • lesser charges, and/or
  • dropped charges.

While plea bargains allow cases to move quickly through the court system and seem to be advantageous to all parties involved, their use in the legal system is highly contentious. One reason this is a controversial issue is because it allows criminals to face lesser charges and lesser penalties for severe crimes. In this way, justice is not really served to a victim. Plea bargains are also controversial because many say that they reduce the U.S. justice system to the negotiation skills of an individual