Deferred Entry of Judgment— Welfare & Institutions Code 790

Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) is a type of juvenile probation where a minor admits committing a felony offense. Judgment is deferred, or “not entered.” The minor is then placed on probation for one to three years and ordered to perform certain terms and conditions. If probation is successfully completed, the case is dismissed. All the juvenile court records are then sealed.

DEJ is only available to first-time nonviolent felony offenders. The idea behind granting DEJ is to impose probation terms and conditions that will:

  • rehabilitate a minor, and
  • prevent future criminal activity.

In every felony case, the juvenile court prosecutor determines if a minor is eligible for DEJ. If eligible, the prosecutor notifies the court, the minor, and the minor's attorney. The judge then decides whether the minor is suitable for DEJ. A minor is suitable for DEJ if the judge finds that he or she would benefit from court ordered:

  • education,
  • treatment, and
  • rehabilitation efforts.1

DEJ probation lasts from one to three years. If the minor performs satisfactorily on DEJ probation, at the end of the probation period:

  • the charges are dismissed,
  • the arrest never happened (legally), and
  • any juvenile court records are sealed.

If a minor performs poorly on DEJ probation and/or commits new crimes, the deferred entry may be lifted. A sentencing (disposition) hearing is then scheduled.

In this article, our California Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys will highlight some of the most important things to know about Deferred Entry of Judgment for minors (DEJ). We cover:

If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group for a consultation.

minor in handcuffs
Deferred Entry of Judgment is a type of juvenile probation where a minor admits committing a felony offense, but the judgment is deferred

1. What is deferred entry of judgment (DEJ) in juvenile court?

Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) is a type of juvenile probation where a minor admits committing a felony offense. Judgment is deferred, or “not entered,” and the juvenile is ordered to perform certain terms and conditions. The probation period lasts from one to three years.

DEJ is designed for first-time nonviolent felony offenders. The idea behind granting DEJ is to impose probation conditions designed to:

  • rehabilitate a minor, and
  • prevent future criminal activity.

2. When is a minor eligible for DEJ?

In every felony case the prosecutor must determine whether or not the minor is eligible for DEJ. To be eligible for DEJ a minor must meet seven requirements:2

  • 1. the minor cannot have been a ward before due to a felony,
  • 2. the current offense cannot be a Welfare ,
  • 3. the minor has never been committed to CYA or a Division of Juvenile Justice facility,
  • 4. if the minor has ever been on juvenile probation it must have been completed,
  • 5. the minor must be at least 14 years old at the time of the hearing,
  • 6. the minor must be eligible for probation under Penal Code 1203.06, and
  • 7. the offense cannot be a serious sex crime.

If the minor is found to be eligible for DEJ, the prosecutor notifies the court, the minor, and defense counsel. It is then up to the juvenile court judge to decide if the minor is suitable for DEJ.

Please note that a minor must admit all the crimes that they are being charged with. If an eligible minor insists on an adjudication hearing (trial), he or she becomes no longer eligible for DEJ.3 This means that a minor cannot contest any of the charges.

3. Does DEJ have to be granted if a minor is eligible for it?

No. The juvenile court judge determines if a minor is suitable for deferred entry of judgment (DEJ). Suitable means that the judge finds that the minor would benefit from:

  • education,
  • treatment, and
  • rehabilitation efforts.

In some cases, the judge will simply grant DEJ if the minor admits all the charges. In other cases, the judge will order a suitability hearing. The case is then referred to the probation department for an investigation.4 During its investigation the probation department will consider a minor's:

  • age and maturity level,
  • educational background,
  • family relationships,
  • motivation,
  • treatment history (if any), and
  • other positive and negative factors.

The probation department also determines which treatment programs would accept the minor if granted DEJ. If the evidence indicates, however, that the minor would not benefit from DEJ, the judge can deny it.5

For example:

A minor, although eligible, was found unsuitable for DEJ because the judge said that he was a documented gang member, had a history of drug abuse and addiction, and participated with other gang members in the residential theft of a rifle. In re Sergio R. (2003) 106 Cal.App. 4th 597.

4. What kinds of terms and conditions can be ordered under DEJ?

The court can order any terms and conditions of DEJ probation that are appropriate for an individual case.6 These could include:

  • warrantless searches of the minor and areas under their control (mandatory),
  • random drug or alcohol testing,
  • curfew and school attendance requirements, and
  • restitution.

5. What happens if a minor successfully completes DEJ?

If a minor performs satisfactorily on DEJ probation, at the end of the period the charge(s) are dismissed. The arrest is deemed never to have occurred and any juvenile court records are sealed.7

Please note that the prosecutor and the probation department can still access the records to see if a minor is eligible for DEJ in another case.

6. What happens if a minor fails to complete DEJ?

During the probation period, the prosecutor, probation department, or court may determine that a minor on DEJ:

  • is not performing satisfactorily in an assigned program,
  • is not following the terms of probation,
  • is not benefiting from education, treatment, or rehabilitation,
  • committed a felony, or
  • committed one or more misdemeanors on two separate occasions.

If this occurs the court can lift the deferral and schedule a disposition hearing (sentencing).

For example:

A juvenile (now 18) on DEJ probation decided to drop out of high school. This was a violation of the terms of probation. The judge lifted the deferred entry of judgment and at the disposition hearing terminated probation. The effect was that the juvenile no longer qualified for mandatory dismissal of his case or sealing of his record, even though probation was ended.8

Call us for help…

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Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or a loved one is facing juvenile court charges, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in our office or by phone. You can call us 24/7 at (855) LAW-FIRM.


Legal References:

  1. California Rules of Court 5.800(b)(2)

  2. Welfare & Institutions 790(a).

  3. In re Kenneth J. (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 973.

  4. Welfare & Institutions 791(b); California Rules of Court 5.800.

  5. Martha C. v Superior Court (2003) 108 Cal.App. 4th 556.

  6. Welfare & Institutions 794.

  7. Welfare & Institutions 791(a)(3) and (c).

  8. In re N.R. (2017) 15 Cal.App.5th 590.

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