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Series

Columbia Law School

1992

Yale Law Journal

Contracts

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Full-Text Articles in Law

Plea-Bargaining As A Social Contract, Robert E. Scott, William J. Stuntz Jan 1992

Plea-Bargaining As A Social Contract, Robert E. Scott, William J. Stuntz

Faculty Scholarship

Most criminal prosecutions are settled without a trial. The parties to these settlements trade various risks and entitlements: the defendant relinquishes the right to go to trial (along with any chance of acquittal), while the prosecutor gives up the entitlement to seek the highest sentence or pursue the most serious charges possible. The resulting bargains differ predictably from what would have happened had the same cases been taken to trial. Defendants who bargain for a plea serve lower sentences than those who do not. On the other hand, everyone who pleads guilty is, by definition, convicted, while a substantial minority ...