Is Alternative Dispute Resolution Used in Criminal Cases?
It depends. Restorative justice (RJ) is a type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) used in qualifying criminal cases. It allows the victim and alleged offender to resolve the matter without formal court proceedings. The accused might not face a conviction or criminal charges under some circumstances.
In Fairfax County, the Alternative Accountability Restorative Justice Program is available only to juvenile offenders arrested for non-violent crimes, such as disorderly conduct, theft, property damage, alcohol possession, harassment, and trespassing.
Here you can learn more about restorative justice and how ADR works.
An Overview of Restorative Justice
Multiple jurisdictions in Virginia offer an RJ program to juveniles. The primary goals of the program include:
- Address the disproportionate representation of minorities in the criminal justice system
- Hold youth accountable for their misconduct without the effects of a criminal record
- Reduce recidivism of harmful behavioral and criminal acts
- Provide victims the opportunity to participate in resolving the case
Restorative justice is an alternative approach to resolving a criminal case without a conviction. The alleged victim can tell the accused how the crime affected them. A facilitator helps by finding and suggesting solutions to settle outside of court.
The agreed-upon settlement often requires the accused to perform specific actions, such as:
- Repair the alleged physical damage
- Pay restitution to the victim
- Complete community service
- Enroll in a self-improvement program, such as anger management or alcohol abuse classes
How Mediation Works
Mediation is a common type of ADR. It is available for most non-criminal matters. However, the parties in a criminal case can also use it to resolve non-violent issues.
Mediation is an informal and private method of settling a legal issue without depending on a jury or judge to decide on the case. The alleged offender and victim can meet with a neutral third party called a mediator. The mediator doesn’t enter judgments or make decisions for the parties. Instead, their job is to facilitate conversations and suggest mutually beneficial solutions.
Typically, mediation begins with introductions. The mediator introduces themselves and confirms that everyone attending knows each party’s role. The alleged victim can make an opening statement about the crime and its effects on their life. The alleged offender can also make a statement. Either person’s lawyer is allowed to speak on their client’s behalf.
After opening statements, the mediator will separate the parties into different rooms. They will meet with each side to address their cases. They might point out the strengths and weaknesses and what a jury or judge might decide if the parties want to participate in court proceedings. They can also advise the best options for handling the matter. However, they can’t force anyone into a decision.
Negotiations can occur until the accused and victim agree on a settlement or other appropriate action. If they settle the case during mediation, the mediator can draft a written agreement for each person to sign. If mediation fails, the offender will likely have to proceed with a formal hearing for the criminal charge and prepare to defend themselves at trial.
Advantages of Mediation in a Criminal Case
Mediation is voluntary. Everyone involved in the criminal matter can decide whether to participate. Mediation might be the best option to avoid criminal charges and possible sentencing.
There are multiple benefits of choosing mediation, such as:
- Faster resolution than trial proceedings
- Everything everyone says is confidential and can’t serve as evidence in further proceedings
- Less costly than continuing to trial
- More control over the outcome by deciding how to resolve the matter instead of letting a jury or judge enter a verdict
Defend Yourself with an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
At Whitestone Young, PC, we provide aggressive and dependable legal representation to clients in Fairfax, VA. If you were arrested and want to determine if you qualify for restorative justice, call us at 703-591-0200 for a consultation today.