What is a Deferred Judgment?

A deferred judgment is a way to plea bargain a case that gives the defendant the opportunity to avoid a conviction for a crime so long as he or she successfully complies with terms and conditions of the deferred judgment.  If a deferred judgment agreement is reached, the judge will take a guilty plea to the charge, but will then defer entry of judgment. If and when the defendant completes the deferred judgment, then the guilty plea is withdrawn and the case is dismissed.

Now that you know what a deferred judgment is, the next question is: what are terms and conditions of a deferred judgment? Usually, although not always, the court will require the defendant to be on supervised probation. Standard conditions of probation include, but are not limited to, community service hours, classes and/or therapy, payment of fines and court costs and no new law violations. The amount of time on probation is usually agreed upon by the prosecution and the defense. Ocassionlly, the prosecution will ask for a longer term up front, but agree that after a certain period of time (as long as all requirements have been completed), the deferred judgment may end early.

So, what happens if the defendant is non-compliant while on the deferred judgment? Non-compliance may be due to passive requirements, such as a prohibition against committing a new law violation. Non-compliance can also be due to an affirmative requirement, such as a failure to complete community service hours. Under either circumstance, if probation believes a person is in violation of probation, probation will file a complaint to revoke the deferred judgment. The complaint should allege exactly what conduct (or lack thereof) gave rise to the complaint. A person is entitled to a hearing on the complaint. If the judge determines the defendant violated the terms and conditions of the deferred, then the guilty plea will no longer be deferred. The conviction will enter and the judge will resentence the defendant.