Why Do Defense Attorneys Engage In Plea Bargaining


As much as we wish for every criminal case to go through the rigorous legal process of court trials, it’s not always the case. In fact, most cases are resolved through plea bargaining. While it may seem like an easy way out for some, others see it as a necessary evil in the pursuit of justice. Defense attorneys often find themselves at odds with this controversial practice but still engage in it anyway. But why? Let’s dive deeper into the world of plea bargaining and find out why defense attorneys choose to participate in this system despite its criticisms.

What is plea bargaining?

Plea bargaining is a legal process that occurs outside of court where the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence or lesser charge. It’s essentially an agreement between the defense attorney and prosecutor, with the judge only approving the final outcome.

There are different types of plea bargaining, including charge bargaining where the defendant pleads guilty to a less severe offense than what they were originally charged with. Another type is sentence bargaining, where they plead guilty to their original charges but receive a lighter sentence.

Plea bargaining can benefit both sides as it saves time and money spent on lengthy trials while ensuring some form of punishment for the defendant. However, it also has its drawbacks such as encouraging false confessions and potentially allowing dangerous criminals to avoid appropriate punishment.

Plea bargaining remains one of the most controversial aspects of our justice system today.

Pros and cons of plea bargaining

Plea bargaining, an agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for certain concessions from the prosecutor, is a common practice in criminal cases. However, like any other legal strategy or tactic, it has its own advantages and disadvantages.

One of the main benefits of plea bargaining is that it can help reduce the time and cost of trials. By avoiding lengthy litigation proceedings, both parties can save time and money on legal fees associated with trial preparation.

Another advantage of plea bargaining is that it can result in lighter sentences for defendants who may have faced harsher penalties if convicted at trial. This is especially true for first-time offenders who are not likely to reoffend.

On the other hand, critics argue that plea bargaining undermines justice by allowing criminals to get away with lesser charges than they otherwise would face. Additionally, some defendants might feel pressured into accepting plea deals even if they are innocent because they fear facing more serious consequences if found guilty at trial.

While there are certainly pros and cons to consider when evaluating plea bargains as an option for resolving criminal charges quickly and efficiently without going through costly courtroom procedures – whether or not this approach makes sense will depend largely upon individual circumstances such as jurisdictional practices around sentencing guidelines; available evidence against accused individuals; strength/weaknesses thereof relative their respective arguments re: guilt/innocence etc…

Criticisms of plea bargaining

Plea bargaining is not without its critics, and there are those who believe that it undermines the legal system. Some argue that plea bargaining can lead to innocent people being convicted of crimes they did not commit, as defendants may feel pressured to accept a deal even if they are innocent in order to avoid a potentially harsher sentence.

Another criticism of plea bargaining is that it disproportionately affects low-income individuals and communities of color. Due to systemic inequalities in the criminal justice system, these groups are more likely to be arrested and charged with crimes, making them more vulnerable to plea bargains.

Critics also argue that plea bargaining contributes to mass incarceration by incentivizing prosecutors to secure convictions rather than seek justice. This can result in longer sentences for minor offenses and overcrowded prisons.

Furthermore, some believe that plea bargains undermine public trust in the legal system by allowing criminals to receive lighter sentences in exchange for information or cooperation with law enforcement. This can make it seem like justice is being bought rather than served.

While there are valid concerns about the use of plea bargaining in our legal system, many still see it as a necessary tool for resolving cases efficiently and fairly.

Why do defense attorneys engage in plea bargaining?

Defense attorneys engage in plea bargaining for a variety of reasons. One of the most significant reasons is to avoid the risk associated with going to trial. A guilty verdict at trial could result in a harsher sentence than what was offered in the plea bargain.

Plea bargaining also allows defense attorneys to negotiate for lesser charges or reduced sentences for their clients. This can be particularly helpful if the evidence against their client is strong, and there are few legal defenses available.

Another reason why defense attorneys may choose to engage in plea bargaining is that it can help them resolve cases more quickly and efficiently. Trials can drag on for months or even years, whereas plea bargains typically only take a few weeks to negotiate and finalize.

Additionally, engaging in plea bargaining can help defense attorneys build relationships with prosecutors and judges. By demonstrating an ability to reach mutually beneficial agreements, they may establish themselves as trustworthy advocates who are committed to resolving cases fairly and efficiently.

While there are certainly criticisms of plea bargaining as a practice, many defense attorneys see it as an important tool that enables them to achieve better outcomes for their clients while managing the risks associated with taking cases all the way through trial.


To sum it up, plea bargaining is a necessary evil for both defense attorneys and prosecutors. While it can save time and resources, it also raises concerns of fairness and justice. Defense attorneys engage in plea bargaining to secure the best outcome for their clients while balancing the risks associated with going to trial.

However, there are criticisms that suggest plea bargaining undermines our justice system by allowing criminals to escape punishment or accept a lower sentence than what they deserve. It’s important that we continue to evaluate and improve upon this practice to ensure its benefits outweigh its drawbacks.

Plea bargaining may not be perfect but it serves as an essential tool in our criminal justice system. As long as everyone involved remains ethical and transparent throughout the process, we can achieve just outcomes while reducing the burden on our courts.