What happens if you violate a deferred sentence in Colorado?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Aug 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

It depends on the case. The judge may either just extend the period of probation or else convict the defendant and remand him or her to jail.

Deferred sentencing in Colorado

A deferred judgment and sentence in Colorado (CRS 18-1.3-102)  is a legal mechanism where a defendant can avoid a criminal conviction and sentence as long as he or she successfully completes probation. In short, it is like a legal mulligan where a defendant can get a clean slate as long as he or she completes some requirements first.

In Colorado, people eligible for deferred sentencing are usually first-time offenders facing low-level, non-violent charges such as public intoxication, traffic violations, and drug possession. It is rare for people with felony charges, DUI charges, or criminal histories to get a deferred sentence.

Ultimately, the judge in the case needs to approve a deferred sentencing deal. Depending on the case, the period of probation can last from six months to four years. And there are various conditions the judge may order the defendant to abide by. These may include:

  • going to drug and alcohol counseling (NA or AA)
  • paying restitution to the victims in Colorado (if any)
  • taking drug and alcohol education classes (usually online)
  • submitting to unannounced drug and alcohol testing
  • taking anger management classes
  • going to school or keeping a job
  • avoiding further arrests
  • doing community service
  • avoiding drugs and alcohol (including marijuana)
  • writing an apology letter to the victim (if any)
  • avoiding certain locations or individuals
  • staying within the state and not traveling without permission

Upon successful completion of a deferred judgment, the criminal charge will be dismissed. The defendant can also petition for a record seal right away. This way, the case will not show up on future background checks when the defendant applies for a job.

But if the defendant does not successfully complete the deferred judgment, the judge will impose consequences:

Deferred sentencing violations in Colorado

When a defendant violates a term of deferred sentencing, the repercussions can include everything from a slap on the wrist to jail.

If the only condition the defendant violated was not paying victim restitution, the judge can simply extend the length of the deferred sentence until the defendant is able to pay. The defendant can have up to an additional 182 days to complete payments.

But any other deferred sentencing violation can cause the judge to convict the defendant for the underlying offense and sentence him or her to jail as if the deferred sentence never existed. Furthermore, the defendant cannot elect to go to trial instead: Waiving the right to trial was a condition of accepting the deferred judgment to begin with. 

In some cases, the judge may choose a middle ground where the deferred judgment continues but with harsher conditions. The judge may also extend the period of deferred judgment for up to two years and even impose a jail sentence of up to 90 days. Then if the defendant completes the probation without any more slip-ups, the charge would be dismissed.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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