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What is a revocation of a deferred sentence in Colorado?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Sep 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

A revocation of a deferred sentence is when the court takes back ("revokes") a defendant's opportunity to complete probation ("deferred sentence") as punishment for violating the court's orders. When a defendant's deferred judgment is revoked, he/she is usually remanded to jail and will get a criminal conviction. 

In any case, the defendant's criminal defense attorney will always try to persuade the judge not to revoke the deferred sentence and to give the defendant a second chance to complete probation.

Definition of a deferred sentencing in Colorado

A deferred judgment and sentence in Colorado (CRS 18-1.3-102) is a type of alternative sentencing that allows a defendant to escape a criminal conviction and jail in exchange for completing a term of probation (usually six months to four years). In other words, the judge gives the defendant "one last chance" to make things up to the court. As long as the defendant is compliant, the judge will dismiss the case.

Deferred judgments are not available to everyone. Colorado judges typically reserve it for first-time offenders accused of more minor, non-violent charges. Examples include traffic tickets, being drunk in public, and recreational drug possession. Judges typically do not offer deferred judgments to people charged with felonies or who have a long rap sheet.

Every criminal matter is different, and the terms of a defendant's deferred judgment vary case-by-case. Some of the terms that a judge may impose on a defendant granted a deferred judgment include the following:

  • avoiding further arrests
  • penning an apology letter to the victim (if any)
  • completing a certain number of hours of community service
  • paying restitution to the victims in Colorado (if any)
  • participating in drug and alcohol education classes (usually online)
  • taking unannounced drug and alcohol testing
  • participating in anger management classes
  • attending school or being employed
  • attending drug and alcohol counseling (NA or AA)
  • abstaining from drugs and alcohol (including marijuana)
  • not going to certain locations and not contacting certain individuals
  • remaining in Colorado and not traveling without permission

If the defendant completes the period of deferred judgment, the defendant will usually get his/her case dismissed. This is also advantageous because then he/she can petition for a record seal immediately (if eligible).

Revocations of a deferred sentence in Colorado

When a defendant fails to complete the period of a deferred judgment, the judge may "revoke" the deferred judgment. This means that the judge will both convict the defendant of the underlying criminal charge and may send the defendant to jail to serve the original sentence. Note that the defendant will not get a trial since he/she waived his/her right to a trial by originally agreeing to be on deferred judgment.

However, the judge has the discretion to give the defendant another chance and not revoke the deferred sentence. In these cases, the judge may instead impose more probationary terms or lengthen the period of the deferred sentence or even impose some jail time.

If the only condition the defendant failed to meet was paying victim restitution, the judge can increase the length of the deferred judgment period to up to 182 days to give the defendant extra time to pay.

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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