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Exploring Alternative Dispute Resolution in Criminal Cases

Exploring Alternative Dispute Resolution in Criminal Cases

November 28, 2023 / Criminal Defense

Going to court isn’t the only way to resolve a legal dispute. One widely used alternative to litigation is ADR — alternative dispute resolution. Criminal cases in the past haven’t been eligible for resolution through ADR, even with the representation of a Florida criminal defense attorney. However, there’s a growing push to introduce ADR into criminal proceedings as a possible option for resolving the conflict between two parties. 

Its introduction into the criminal justice system broadens the options available for resolving a criminal case and offers a new form of justice for victims and a number of benefits for individuals who have been charged with a crime. 

What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Alternative dispute resolution is a widely used approach for resolving legal disputes without unnecessarily draining court resources. Court dockets are often so booked up that people are left waiting months for a court hearing. This is the case across the country, in all types of legal cases, both criminal and civil. 

ADR is an effective way of resolving matters that would otherwise have to be resolved in court. The benefits of relying on ADR include lower legal costs for clients, fewer cases taking up space on court dockets, and faster resolution times. 

ADR also allows both parties to maintain some level of autonomy in how a case is resolved. Parties work together to negotiate a solution that’s acceptable to both sides, rather than having to accept whatever judgment is given by the judge when a case goes to court.

How Is ADR Currently Used?

Historically, alternative dispute resolution hasn’t been used in criminal proceedings. Across the country, ADR is relied upon for resolving matters related to civil and family law. ADR can take the form of mediation or arbitration

In the state of Florida, ADR is recommended by the court system as the preferred first approach for disputes in three broad legal areas:

Small Claims

Florida defines small claims as legal disputes which concern property or a transaction with a value of less than $8,000. Both parties meet with the small claims mediator, who acts as a neutral third party. The mediator listens to both sides and works to identify a solution that satisfies both parties without incurring the expense and time of resolving the matter in small claims court. 

Family Law

Mediation is heavily relied upon to resolve issues related to family law. The two most common uses for ADR in family law are creating divorce agreements and resolving disputes related to child custody, parenting time, and child support payments.

Divorcing couples aren’t required to attend mediation, but there are many benefits of doing so. Taking a divorce to court for a judge’s ruling can be both expensive and time consuming, and both spouses relinquish the ability to make decisions about how marital property is divided. Mediation allows both spouses to have a say in how assets are split up.

As in many other states, Florida requires parents to first go through meditation before a juvenile custody case goes before a judge. The legal system is designed to encourage parents to cooperate and come to a working solution over matters related to child custody and parenting time. As in other cases, ADR allows parents to maintain control over the outcome as they craft a parenting plan that works for their family structure.


One final area in which the Florida justice system relies heavily on ADR is in resolving disputes over tenant-landlord issues, particularly in the area of evictions. Tenants and landlords are encouraged to work out eviction disputes via mediation before taking a case to court.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Criminal Case Uses

In recent years, the use of alternative dispute resolution to resolve criminal cases has been put forward as a new model. When ADR is used to resolve a criminal case, it is referred to as restorative justice (RJ). RJ is a relatively new idea, but it’s slowly growing in popularity. 

ADR in criminal cases is not yet in widespread use in the U.S. As this new justice model is discussed and studied more widely, there’s a good chance it will be introduced as a possible means of resolving criminal cases. 

ADR isn’t likely to replace the traditional justice system anytime soon. Some types of crimes, such as violent offenses and drug trafficking, are serious crimes that cannot be resolved through mediation. However, many other types of crimes are excellent candidates for resolution through ADR. Property damage, vandalism, criminal trespassing, and theft are all types of cases that lend themselves well to mediation between victim and offender. 

The Benefits of ADR in a Criminal Case

ADR brings many practical benefits to the accused, the victim, and the justice system. A criminal lawyer for ADR is able to help a defendant navigate the justice system and escape serious legal consequences while making amends for their actions. 

Some of the key benefits of using a Florida criminal defense attorney to facilitate ADR in resolving a criminal case include: 

  • Avoiding jail time
  • Maintaining a clean record
  • Maintaining freedom of choice
  • Saving money
  • Reducing recidivism rates
  • Alleviating the burden on jails and courts
  • Offering justice to both parties.

It’s impossible to ignore the many practical benefits brought to the table by working to resolve certain types of criminal cases through alternative dispute resolution. When a criminal lawyer for ADR can bring resolution to both sides, everyone wins. ADR provides a short-term solution to seeing justice served, but it might also pave the way to producing change on a broader social scale. 

Call Panella Law Firm: ADR Cases and Criminal Defense

Experienced ADR criminal defense lawyers know how to fight to protect your future by exploring every possible avenue for moving forward when you’re charged with a crime. If you’re facing criminal charges in Florida, call Panella Law Firm. ADR cases and criminal charges are both handled by Attorney Michael Panella. 

Call Panella Law Firm today at 407-233-1822 to schedule a consultation with an experienced Florida ADR criminal defense lawyer.

Attorney Mike Panella

For Mike Panella, the concept of zealous advocacy developed at an early age – fueled by what he perceived to be an unjust resolution in a personal family legal matter. Mr. Panella would later attribute his passion to defend the rights of those who stand accused to those inequities in the legal system he observed, and considered unjust. Before opening Panella Law Firm, Mr. Panella served as an Assistant Public Defender for Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office and worked hundreds of cases in both Brevard and Seminole Counties. Mr. Panella was undefeated at trial. [ Attorney Bio ]

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