Even though over 95% of criminal cases now end in plea bargains instead of going to a jury trial, the concept of a plea bargain isn’t mentioned in the Constitution and would have been foreign to our founders. What should we make of this dramatic change in the criminal justice system? Are plea bargains a boon for defendants and necessary for efficiency? Or are they “coercive,” depriving defendants of their right to a jury trial?

Two experts, Jay Schweikert of the Cato Institute and Timothy Sandefur of the Goldwater Institute, discuss the rise of plea bargaining in the second video of a POLICYbrief series on criminal justice. 

As always, the Federalist Society takes no particular legal or public policy positions. All opinions expressed are those of the speakers.

Learn more about Jay Schweikert:

Follow Jay Schweikert @jay_schweikert

Learn more about Timothy Sandefur:

Follow Timothy Sandefur @TimothySandefur


Differing Views & Related Links:

Cato Institute: “The Devil’s Bargain: How Plea Agreements, Never Contemplated by the Framers, Undermine Justice”

The New York Review of Books: “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty”

Nolo: “The Benefits of a Plea Bargain”

APG Media of Wisconsin: “Plea bargains crucial to efficient court system”