We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Plea Bargains?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
MyLawQuestions is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At MyLawQuestions, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A plea bargain is an agreement between a prosecutor and defendant whereby the prosecutor provides incentive for the defendant to plead guilty in order to avoid going to trial. Plea bargains can benefit defendants by guaranteeing particular outcomes. The two most common types of plea bargains are charge and sentence bargaining, where the first type reduces the charge(s), and the latter, the sentence(s). Fact bargaining is a less common type of plea bargain.

If the defendant is facing multiple charges, a charge bargain might involve dropping some or even most of the charges with the defendant pleading guilty to the remaining charges. If the defendant is only facing a single charge, the prosecutor might offer the defendant a chance to plead guilty to a lesser charge.

Alternately, the charge might remain the same but with a reduced sentence that reflects the lower end of compensatory sentencing for that crime. If the charge carries 10-20 years, for example, a sentencing bargain might guarantee ten years with a chance for parole after seven. In death penalty cases plea bargains often involve guaranteeing the defendant life in prison rather than going to trial to risk a possible death sentence. Sentence plea bargains typically have to be pre-approved by the trial judge.

A third, less common type of plea bargain is fact bargaining, whereby the prosecution might agree not to contest the defendant’s version of events, might agree to be lenient on accomplices, or might agree to keep certain aggravating factual information from the court in order to avoid a higher, mandatory sentence associated with such circumstances. Fact bargaining can also involve other agreements such as arranging for the defendant to go to a particular prison, giving the defendant immunity against crimes for which he has not been charged, or attempting to get charges in other jurisdictions dismissed.

Most often a prosecutor will offer a defendant a chance at a plea bargain, though public pressure to prosecute a particular defendant to the full extent of the law, politics or other issues might intervene. A defense attorney might also approach the prosecutor on behalf of his or her client to plead out the case, though plea bargains are not a right of the defendant, but a prosecutorial option.

For the defendant, the best possible outcome is going to trial and being found not guilty, so plea bargains must be considered carefully by the defendant and his or her attorney. When a plea bargain is struck, the details should clearly be stated on the record to protect the rights of the defendant where these terms are concerned. The defendant might also have obligations to meet as part of the plea bargain, such as testifying against a co-defendant or providing key information about the case.

When a defendant agrees to a plea bargain, he or she gives up the right to a trial and the right to remain silent. Generally a judge must approve a plea bargain before it is final. If a judge rejects a plea bargain, the defendant can reassert his or her right to a trial.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By sapphire12 — On Jan 12, 2011

@BambooForest, I think that some of that does go on, and there are many who believe that plea bargains are often the result of a defendant being given poor or limited advice about his or her case, causing the person to believe a plea bargain is the best option when it is not.

By BambooForest — On Jan 11, 2011

Were I ever in that situation, I do not know if I would be willing to go the route of a plea bargain conviction. It seems that many people consider them because while they are innocent, there is not substantial evidence to defend their case.

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.