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.


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