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Fictional Pleas

Type of Source
Law Review
Thea Johnson
94 Indiana Law Journal 855
Publication Year


This article discusses “fictional pleas,” which are described in the piece as guilty pleas to crimes that have not been committed and for which the original factual allegations do not align. The articles examines the reasons that lead defendants and actors in the criminal justice system, including defense counsel, prosecutors, and judges, engage in fictional pleas. In particular, the article explores the impact of collateral consequences and argues that fictional pleas may provide a fair and just method to avoid such consequences. The article also considers what fictional pleas indicate about the current state of criminal justice and the role of bargaining and truth.

Key Quote

“Fictional pleas expose the extreme lengths that stakeholders are willing to go to respond to the expanding scope of noncriminal sanctions that are implicated by the criminal system. We have a system that involves judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys conspiring to assist defendants in avoiding the terrible fates that have been imposed upon them by legislatures. It should give lawmakers pause that their collateral consequences policies have created this morass within the criminal system.” p.900