Plea Bargaining and Disclosure in Germany and the United States: Comparative Lessons

56 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2015 Last revised: 15 Dec 2021

See all articles by Jenia Iontcheva Turner

Jenia Iontcheva Turner

Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law

Date Written: 2016


This article analyzes recent trends in plea bargaining and disclosure of evidence in Germany and the United States. Over the last two decades, a number of U.S. jurisdictions have adopted rules requiring broader and earlier discovery in criminal cases. This development reflects a growing consensus that, in a system that resolves most of its cases through guilty pleas, early and extensive disclosure is necessary to ensure fair and informed outcomes.

The introduction of broader discovery in criminal cases in the United States aligns our rules more closely with German rules on access to the investigative file. At the same time, through its increasing reliance on negotiations to resolve criminal cases, the German criminal justice system has itself moved closer to the U.S. model. As the approaches of the two countries to disclosure and plea bargaining converge, it is worth reflecting on the German experience and examining which features of the German model have proven effective and which continue to pose challenges. The analysis of the German system offers some general ideas on regulating discovery and plea bargaining that could be of interest to U.S. scholars and policymakers, even if a number of the specific rules of German criminal procedure may not fit well within the American adversarial tradition.

Keywords: discovery, disclosure, guilty pleas, plea bargaining, criminal procedure, comparative criminal procedure, adversarial, inquisitorial, Germany

JEL Classification: K14, K42, K40

Suggested Citation

Turner, Jenia Iontcheva, Plea Bargaining and Disclosure in Germany and the United States: Comparative Lessons (2016). 57 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1549 (2016), SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 183, Available at SSRN:

Jenia Iontcheva Turner (Contact Author)

Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 750116
Dallas, TX 75275
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics