Apology and Restorative justice - criminal law

Apologies and Plea Bargaining

Theoretically, encouraging apologies early in the criminal process may be a laudable goal given the potential benefits of apologies to victims, offenders, and communities. But empirically, the growing literature on apologies in psychology and law raises important questions about whether apologies-when made prior to sentencing-would lead to more favorable results for the offender. Given the overwhelming portion of cases that are resolved through guilty pleas, we argue that most defendants are unlikely to participate in pre-sentencing remorse or apology rituals without regard to the effect of the apology on plea bargaining outcomes. Mindful of recent scholarship on apologies in both law and psychology, we consider the role of apologies in plea bargaining and theorize about the ways in which apologies might affect plea negotiations. We conclude that, contrary to the assertion that apologies would lead to more favorable plea bargained outcomes for defendants, the nature of plea negotiation renders this result unlikely.


Margareth Etienne & Jennifer K. Robbennolt, Apologies and Plea Bargaining, 91 Marq. L. Rev. 295 (2007).

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