Sociolegal Approaches to the Study of Guilty Pleas and Prosecution

Brian D. Johnson, Ryan D. King, Cassia Spohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Defendants charged with crimes in US courts rarely go to trial. Instead, convicted defendants typically waive their right to trial and plead guilty, sometimes after bargaining for a reduced charge or reduced sentence. This article takes stock of the theoretical and empirical research on guilty pleas and organizes the key findings and limitations across this interdisciplinary body of work. Several areas in need of empirical attention are identified, and recommendations are offered for advancing future work on this important but understudied facet of the criminal justice system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-495
Number of pages17
JournalAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
StatePublished - Oct 27 2016


  • Case processing
  • Guilty pleas
  • Plea bargaining
  • Prosecution
  • Punishment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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