Office of the Director of Public Prosecution at Nairobi's Upper Hill. Photo: James Mabeya

A plea bargain is an agreement in criminal law proceedings, whereby the prosecutor provides a concession to the defendant in exchange for a plea of guilty. The accused agrees to plead “guilty” or not contest some or all crimes, in return for a reduction of severity of charges, removal of some, or in return for some benefit to the advantage of the accused.

Plea bargaining is an efficient manner of resolving cases and guarantees conviction hence justice is served. A prosecutor has flexibility when handling criminal cases as not all of them are subjected to full judicial proceedings thus reducing caseloads and maintaining focus on cases that are worthy of a trial.

A plea bargain is encouraged where parties are convinced the evidence will lead to conviction, a joint sentencing recommendation can be made and when the accused is ready to admit to the charges under oath and voluntarily. On the other hand, a plea agreement cannot be used where there is insufficient evidence or when the accused maintains innocence.

Plea agreements can be used in most cases except in sexual offenses, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.