Criminal defense in Austin Texas.

Why So Many Plea Bargains?

Posted By on November 4, 2008

One of the less-understood aspects of criminal courts involves plea bargains.  On television, and in movies, most people get a trial, so some folks are surprised that 90%+ of cases end in plea bargains.

To some, the quantity of plea bargains means too many are getting off easy.  To others, it means too many got pressured into pleading, when they might have won if they’d gone to trial.

Both things happen, of course. Some people get off easy.  Others wind up pleading to cases they might have beat.

But there’s a very good reason most cases end in plea bargains: Money.

It all comes down to numbers.  At any given time, each of the felony courts here in Travis County has close to 1000 pending cases.  Meanwhile, the courts try about two cases a month.  At that rate, it would take 83 years for the court to work its way through its current docket.  Meanwhile, hundreds of new felony cases get filed in Austin every month.

Even if the courts doubled, or tripled, or sextupled the number of trials they held every year, they still couldn’t keep up.

In order to actually try more than a small fraction of cases, Travis County would have to spend many times what it currently does on judges and staff.

There is no money for that.  Which is why most cases end in plea bargains.


One Response to “Why So Many Plea Bargains?”

  1. Anonymous says:

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