Bargaining with asymmetric information: an empirical study of plea negotiations

In the US, most criminal cases are resolved before trial through plea bargain agreements. Given the extent to which cases are settled before trial, the impact of sentencing reforms will depend largely on how they affect these agreements as opposed to the outcome of cases argued in court. Therefore, the current debate over criminal justice must consider the role of plea bargaining. By adapting and applying a theoretical model of litigation to data on violent crime cases filed in North Carolina’s superior court system, this article attempts to examine the potential impact of several hypothetical policy interventions on the outcome of criminal cases. This provides a helpful tool for understanding the potential ramifications of sentencing reform.

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