Reflections on Plea Bargaining Effectiveness and Equity: An Econometrical Application to the French Process

Posted: 27 Jun 2008

See all articles by Lydie Ancelot

Lydie Ancelot

IRIAF-Université de Poitiers

Date Written: June 26, 2008


Faced with criticisms of slowness and complexity addressed to the legal system, plea bargaining was set up in order to decongest courts gradually. Today, more than 90% of criminal cases are solved through plea bargaining in the United States. Beyond speed requirement, justice must also to answer others objectives: comply with the law, fairness and equity. Today, no econometrical study deals with the equity of the American plea bargaining. In Europe, procedures similar to plea bargaining were recently implemented. For instance, a form to plea bargaining was introduced into the French penal system, causing, as in the United States, many debates. It was in particular compare with a two-tier legal system: one legal system for rich who have financial resources to pay their lawyer and one other justice for poor. So, this his financial constraint may operate as a gap on representation. This paper aims to discuss, by an econometrical analysis, the bond between the effectiveness objective of plea bargaining (by a faster treatment of the criminal justice) and the equity objective of this process. We use data from four French jurisdiction and we carry out in this paper a multinomial logit model in order to examine the criticism of inequity addressed to plea bargaining. We show major differences appear on the criminal sanctions according to the courts of first instance where the accused appear before the prosecutor. Nevertheless, no difference on criminal sanctions appears according to the type of the lawyers (public lawyers or private lawyers) and according to the resources of the accused. Our empirical analysis examine also if plea bargaining is faster than a traditional lawsuit. With statistical tests we determine if the difference of the length between a trial and a plea bargaining is statistical significant.

Keywords: plea bargaining

JEL Classification: K14, K4, C01

Suggested Citation

Ancelot, Lydie, Reflections on Plea Bargaining Effectiveness and Equity: An Econometrical Application to the French Process (June 26, 2008). CLEA 2008 Meetings Paper. Available at SSRN:

Lydie Ancelot (Contact Author)

IRIAF-Université de Poitiers ( email )

11 rue Archimède
Niort, 79000
0549773295 (Phone)

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