A plea bargain is a deal struck between prosecutors and defendants in a criminal case. A plea bargain requires the defendant to plead guilty, thereby waiving his right to a trial. It may also require him to waive his right to appeal his sentence, to challenge forfeiture of his assets, or to raise certain arguments at sentencing. It may require him to testify against another defendant; such "substantial assistance" in the investigation or prosecution of another person can make a defendant eligible for major sentencing reductions pursuant to U.S.S.G. §5K1.1. These informants' testimony may be somewhat unreliable, given that they have every incentive to say whatever the government wants them to say, or to make up accusations or exaggerate, in order to be deemed helpful enough to be worthy of a significant sentence reduction.
Because the practice of plea bargaining has become so widespread, only a small percentage of cases go to trial. One of the most common criticisms levelled against the plea bargaining system is that it coerces confessions. According to Justice Scalia, "It presents grave risks of prosecutorial overcharging that effectively compels an innocent defendant to avoid massive risk by pleading guilty to a lesser offense".
- Rockwell, Llewellyn H. (30 September 2011). "The Police State Abolishes the Trial". Mises Daily. http://mises.org/daily/5693/.
- Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton (Spring 2001). "Beyond Guilt and Innocence?". Mises Review 7 (1). http://mises.org/misesreview_detail.aspx?control=183.
- Lynch, Tim (21 March 2012). "Plea Bargaining in the Supreme Court". Cato@Liberty. http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/plea-bargaining-in-the-supreme-court/.