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The constitution says:

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury...

Not:

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment or with the consent of the accused, shall be by Jury;

How are plea bargains legal in the US?

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  • The constitution says many things, they are not always followed to the letter (see "shall not be infringed"). You could look at the case law for arguments by justices, but ultimately the answer is "it's legal because the SCOTUS has not yet ruled otherwise".
    – Jessica
    Jun 22 at 3:44

2 Answers 2

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The constitutional provision quoted in the question has been interpreted to require that a jury trial be available to a person accused of crime by the US Federal Government. Then accused is free to waive this right, and be tried by a judge only if s/he so chooses. The accuse is also free to waive the right to a trial altogether, and plead guilty (or "no contest" which waives a trail without an admission of guilt).

The provision could reasonably be interpreted to require that if there is a trial, it be by jury. But I don't see how it could reasonably be read to require trials in all cases, and forbid guilty pleas.

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You seem to be suggesting there's a problem because plea bargains don't involve a jury. But the constitution doesn't require a jury to support a conviction; it only requires a jury to adjudicate the facts at a trial.

There's no trial in a plea bargain, so there's no need for a jury.

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