What is Deferred Entry of Judgment and How Can It Help Me?
Earlier this summer, a video depicting a woman stealing a “Make America Great Again” hat from a man’s head went viral. The clip showed UC Riverside student Edith Macias, 22, grabbing the hat from a classmate and accusing him of advocating genocide. While stealing someone’s hat may not seem like a major crime, Macias was arrested and charged with petty theft. Macias ultimately entered a plea of guilty and received a deferred entry of judgment in exchange.
What is Deferred Entry of Judgment?
Deferred entry of judgment is a program in California that allows a judge to stop short of entering a conviction in a criminal case. In order for the program to function, the defendant must plead guilty to the crime they are accused of committing. In exchange for this guilty plea, the court gives the defendant the opportunity to complete a term of supervised probation. If all of the terms of probation are completed successfully, the court will dismiss the criminal charges. As a result, a defendant can avoid a conviction for a crime they actually committed. Simply put, deferred entry of judgment is a type of plea bargain in Los Angeles.
Do I Qualify for Deferred Entry of Judgment?
The deferred adjudication program is not available in all criminal matters. California law only permits the use of the program as a rehabilitative measure for certain non-violent misdemeanor offenses. You may qualify for deferred entry of judgment if you satisfy the following requirements:
- You are facing charges for a non-violent crime
- You have never violated probation or parole
- You have not been convicted of a felony in the past 5 years; and
- You have not entered a diversion program in the past 5 years.
Deferred entry of judgment is most typically used as an alternative sentence for individuals accused of a first-time, non-violent drug offense. However, the program can also be used as an alternative punitive measure for those accused of other low-level misdemeanors, including petty theft.
What Do I Have to Do To Get Deferred Entry of Judgment?
There is one major requirement for securing deferred adjudication. You must enter a plea of guilty or no content. What’s the difference between the two? A guilty plea involves you admitting that you have committed a crime. A guilty plea can be used as evidence against you in a related civil case.
No contest, on the other hand, simply means that you are not going to fight the charges. You do not admit that you are guilty, but do allow the state to enter punishment. The benefit of a no contest plea is that it cannot be used against you as evidence of guilt in a related civil matter.
It’s important to understand that the state’s deferred entry of judgment program is voluntary. You cannot be forced to enter a plea of guilty or no contest against your will. You absolutely have the right to defend yourself against criminal charges. Deferred entry of judgment does, however, offer a way to avoid a conviction.
What Happens When I Get Deferred Judgment?
Once you enter a plea of guilty or no contest, the court will defer judgment in your case. This means that they will not enter a conviction or other final judgment. While your case is deferred, you will be required to complete a term of supervised probation. You must successfully complete all of the terms of your probation to the satisfaction of the court. These may include:
- Community service
- Restitution to victims
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse treatment
- Abstinence from drugs and alcohol
- Mental health counseling
- Cognitive behavioral therapy; and/or
The specific terms of your probation will be designed to rehabilitate and punish you for your crime. The terms will be chosen to directly address any issues that may have been related to your crime.
Finalizing Deferred Entry of Judgment
There are two possible outcomes of a deferred entry program. The outcome you receive will depend on whether or not the court is satisfied that you completed all of the terms of your probation.
Satisfactory Completion: If the court is satisfied that you have met all of your obligations while on probation, it will set aside the criminal charges in your case. As a result, you get to escape a criminal conviction. The fact that you were arrested and charged with a crime will still be on your criminal record. However, you may be eligible to request an expungement.
Unsatisfactory Completion: If the court is not satisfied that you have met all of the conditions of probation, it has the authority to formally enter a conviction in your case. You will then be vulnerable to any penalties that are applicable for that specific crime.