Settlement agreements in criminal cases, often referred to as plea bargains, are a common practice within the legal system.
These agreements offer both advantages and disadvantages for both the defendant and the prosecution.
Pros of settlement agreements
In 2021, the State of Florida saw 543,138 arrests. A majority of these arrests ended in plea bargains for several reasons. First, defendants can receive a more lenient punishment compared to what they might face in a trial, which can be especially appealing if the evidence against them is strong. Settlement agreements can also expedite the legal process, saving time and resources. By avoiding a trial through a settlement, defendants can save on attorney, court and other costs.
Defendants also have some control over the outcome when entering a settlement agreement. They know the terms in advance, which provides a level of predictability and allows them to make an informed decision.
Cons of settlement agreements
A significant drawback is that in most settlement agreements, the defendant needs to admit wrongdoing, even if they believe they are innocent. This admission can have long-term consequences, affecting their record and future opportunities. In addition, once a settlement agreement is in place, the defendant often relinquishes his or her right to appeal or sue for wrongful conviction even if new evidence emerges that could exonerate him or her.
Some people may perceive the defendant as a confessed criminal, regardless of the circumstances, resulting in a social stigma. Also, defendants may feel pressured to accept a settlement, especially if they lack the financial means to mount a robust defense.
Individuals involved in criminal cases should carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of settlements to make an informed decision that aligns with their best interests and circumstances.