Plea Bargains

Plea bargains may sound like a good deal, but are often detrimental to defendants.

According to the Office of the US Attorneys, “when the Government has a strong case, the Government may offer the defendant a plea deal to avoid trial and perhaps reduce his exposure to a more lengthy sentence.” Sounds logical, right? Except that plea bargains are often highly detrimental to defendants. Consider those who are innocent of their charges, but can’t afford their bail: in many cases these people opt to plead guilty to a crime they didn’t commit so that they can move on with their lives more quickly — especially when the prosecuting attorney is threatening even more prison time if the case goes to trial. Research suggests that anywhere between 2 and 8 percent of people who pleaded guilty to felonies were actually innocent. Despite the fact that the US Constitution guarantees defendants the right to a speedy trial and a jury of their peers, trials are, in fact, rare: 94% of state-level and 97% of federal felony convictions arise from plea bargains.

Get Involved:

Guilty Plea Problem: Have a plea bargain story of your own? Share it with Guilty Plea Problem, run by the Innocence Project.

The Innocence Project: According to the Innocence Project, the National Registry of Exonerations has identified 360 cases of innocent people taking a guilty plea. The Innocence Project works to reverse wrongful convictions.