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Initiative aims to understand high rate of plea deals

The high majority of criminal cases (90% to 95%) conclude through the use of plea bargains. But why is that the case, and could there be issues with this type of system for the wrongly accused? This is the question that Duke University is aiming to answer in a new collaborative initiative with district attorneys in North Carolina.

What is the project?

The initiative, known as the “Plea Tracker Project,” will capture data on plea bargains in the state. Prosecutors will participate by sharing information at each stage in the plea bargain negotiation process, in particular the factors they take into consideration, the contact they have with victims and demographic information about the defendants.

Why are they launching the “plea tracker project”?

Duke researchers hope that this will provide important information on how issues like race and implicit bias interact with the plea bargaining system currently in place in the state. There is a current gap in information about how plea bargains work and how certain disparities might impact the outcome someone could face as a result. Plea bargaining is a significant part of the criminal justice system, so fully understanding the process is important in the overall study of criminal justice.

What will the result of this study be?

Researchers say they hope to collect data for a year. They will publish findings with as much detail as possible, being mindful of the confidentiality required for an ethical study. They hope the research will help journalists, researchers and any other person interested in the topic better understand the factors that go into a plea bargain in the state of North Carolina.

Plea bargains are a common occurrence across the United States, including in North Carolina. This is a negotiation process, and having someone who deeply understands criminal law on your side can make a huge difference in such a process. For this reason, a criminal law attorney is an important person to have on hand when weighing the options in these cases.

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