Plea bargains are essentially agreements between the prosecutors and the defendants in criminal cases where the defendants consent to plead guilty in exchange for compromises by the prosecutors. The defendants can agree to plead guilty to all charges or to some of the charges leveled against them.
The concessions by the prosecutors may include reducing the number of charges against the defendants or reducing the severity of the charges. Additionally, the prosecutors may agree to propose reduced sentences.
Some jurisdictions allow judges to work with both the defendants and prosecutors in plea bargains. However, most jurisdictions limit the involvement of judges. In fact, federal judges are not allowed to be directly involved in the practice and have absolute authority over sentencing. Therefore, they are not bound by the recommendations of prosecutors after a plea bargain.
Plea bargains may be initiated by either side. However, only when both parties have agreed can the bargain come to pass. The practice is beneficial in many ways, as it helps defendants avoid a lengthy, expensive, and public trial that carries uncertainty with regard to sentencing, and saves the courts from having to try every criminal charge.