Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 410, court interpretation, plea negotiation, textualism


Rarely is there a proverbial “smoking gun” in criminal prosecutions. Instead, prosecutors and defense attorneys must tell juries competing stories—largely from circumstantial evidence—and allow jurors to determine what happened based on inferences gleaned from argument and testimony. Naturally, this creates substantial uncertainty for both prosecutors and defendants. Instead of rolling the dice at trial, the vast majority of criminal matters are resolved through plea bargaining. Plea bargaining provides both sides with a certainty otherwise unobtainable through a traditional trial. The prosecution guarantees itself a conviction, and the defendant will often receive a lighter sentence than if he or she had gone to trial. The judiciary also benefits in the form of a lighter docket.