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The term “bargain” appears in two specific legal contexts:

  • The first is contract law, where a bargain is defined as a voluntary agreement between two parties in exchange for consideration.
    • Consideration, here, can be money, goods, services, or a promise to do something.
    • For example, if someone agrees to clean a bedroom in exchange for $50, that is a bargain. However, all bargains do not necessarily constitute contracts. If an agreement involves an illegal transaction or the consideration is insufficient or illegal, the bargain does not amount to a contract.
  • Bargain also appears in criminal law. Here, bargain is used to describe several prosecutorial practices such as plea bargaining or fact bargaining.
    • Plea Bargaining generally is an agreement between a prosecutor and a criminal defendant whereby the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a more lenient sentence or a dismissal of other charges.
    • Fact bargain refers to an agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant ascertaining some facts as true in exchange for the prosecutor’s not introducing  other facts that would be detrimental to the defendant.

[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]