The Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) is a legal tool used in the United States to resolve criminal cases without necessarily filing formal charges or going to trial. In a DPA, a prosecutor agrees to suspend or defer prosecution for a certain period of time, usually a few years, during which a defendant must meet certain conditions. If the defendant satisfies the requirements, the charges are dismissed. If the defendant fails to comply with the terms of the DPA, prosecution may resume.
DPAs have become an increasingly common tool for prosecutors in recent years, particularly in cases involving white-collar crime. They allow prosecutors to avoid the time and expense of a trial while still holding defendants accountable and obtaining restitution for victims. For defendants, a DPA can be a way to avoid the stigma of a criminal conviction and the potential consequences that come with it, such as the loss of professional licenses or the inability to obtain certain jobs or loans.
One high-profile example of a DPA in the United States was the agreement reached between the Department of Justice and JP Morgan Chase in 2014. In that case, JP Morgan Chase agreed to pay $13 billion in fines and restitution for its role in the mortgage crisis of the late 2000s. As part of the DPA, JP Morgan Chase also had to admit to wrongdoing and cooperate with ongoing investigations.
Critics of DPAs argue that they allow corporations and individuals to escape accountability for their actions, particularly when the terms of the agreement do not include admission of guilt. They also worry that prosecutors may be too quick to agree to DPAs, allowing defendants to avoid punishment that they might otherwise have received in a trial.
Proponents of DPAs point out that they can be an effective way to resolve complex cases that might otherwise take years to prosecute. They also note that DPAs often include requirements for defendants to cooperate with ongoing investigations or to implement changes to their business practices, which can help prevent similar crimes from occurring in the future.
In summary, the Deferred Prosecution Agreement is a legal tool used in the United States to resolve criminal cases without necessarily filing formal charges or going to trial. DPAs have become an increasingly common tool for prosecutors in recent years, particularly in cases involving white-collar crime. While there are critics and proponents of DPAs, the tool remains a controversial but effective way to resolve complex cases.