Deferred Prosecution Agreement Vs Plea

Deferred Prosecution Agreement vs Plea: What’s the Difference?

Legal matters can be confusing, especially when it comes to criminal cases. Two common terms that are often heard in these situations are deferred prosecution agreement and plea. While these two terms may seem similar, they have distinct differences in how they affect a criminal case. In this article, we’ll explore what deferred prosecution agreements and pleas are, how they work, and what sets them apart.

What is a Deferred Prosecution Agreement?

A deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) is an arrangement between a prosecutor and a defendant, where the defendant agrees to fulfill certain conditions in exchange for the dismissal of criminal charges. Essentially, a DPA is a promise between the prosecutor and defendant that the charges will be dropped if the defendant complies with certain terms.

Deferred prosecution agreements are often used in cases where the defendant is charged with a non-violent crime or when there’s a chance that the defendant may not be found guilty in trial. The conditions that must be met can vary but often include paying restitution, community service, and drug or alcohol treatment programs. These requirements are typically outlined in a written agreement signed by both parties.

What is a Plea?

A plea is a formal statement made by a defendant in a criminal case, where they either admit or deny guilt. Pleading guilty often results in a reduced sentence, as the defendant is cooperating with the prosecution. However, when a defendant pleads not guilty, the case goes to trial, and the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt.

In some cases, a defendant may enter a guilty plea to receive a reduced sentence, but in other cases, they may plead guilty to avoid a harsher punishment if found guilty at trial. A plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between the prosecution and the defense to resolve a case and can include a guilty plea and reduced sentence.

Deferred Prosecution Agreement vs Plea: What’s the Difference?

While both deferred prosecution agreements and pleas involve a defendant admitting to wrongdoing, they differ in several crucial ways:

1. Admitting Guilt: One of the most significant differences between a DPA and a plea is the admission of guilt. In a DPA, the defendant does not admit guilt, and the charges are dismissed upon completion of the agreement. In contrast, a plea involves the defendant admitting guilt, usually in exchange for a reduced sentence.

2. Length of Agreement: A DPA usually spans several months to a few years, depending on the circumstances of the case and the requirements of the agreement. A plea bargain typically results in a shorter sentence than what would have been given, but the sentence is still imposed.

3. Consequences of Non-Compliance: If a defendant does not comply with the terms of a DPA, charges can be refiled and the case goes to trial. In contrast, if a defendant violates the terms of a plea bargain, they could face harsher consequences than they would have received had they not entered into the plea agreement.


In summary, deferred prosecution agreements and pleas are two legal strategies that defendants can use to resolve criminal charges. While they have some similarities, such as admitting to wrongdoing, they differ in significant ways, such as the admission of guilt and length of agreement. Ultimately, the decision to enter into either agreement should be made with the guidance of a lawyer who can provide personalized legal advice and guidance.