In Colorado, individuals facing certain criminal offenses may be offered a deferred judgment and sentence. In exchange for pleading guilty, the defendant will have to meet certain conditions during a probationary period. If he completes the terms of his deferred sentence, the case against him will be dismissed. Violating the terms of the deferred sentence may result in an immediate sentencing for the criminal offense. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is deferred sentencing?
- 2. Who can get a deferred sentence?
- 3. What happens if I complete the terms of my probation?
- 4. What happens if I am arrested again or violate the terms of probation?
- 5. Is a deferred sentence considered a conviction?
- 6. Related Topics
A deferred judgment and sentence is a way for a defendant to avoid criminal sentencing in exchange for completing probationary terms and staying out of trouble. First-time offenders and those facing minor, non-violent offenses may be offered a deferred judgment in exchange for a guilty plea and completing court-ordered conditions.
The district attorney and your defense lawyer may agree to a deferred sentencing offer, which must be approved by the judge. The judge will set a number of conditions and a probationary time period. This may range from 6 months to up to 4 years. During this time, the defendant has to meet certain conditions, such as paying restitution, completing drug education classes, going to substance abuse counseling, and having no other criminal violations.
If the defendant is able to complete their conditions successfully without any violations, the case against her will be dismissed, and the defendant can petition to have her record sealed as if no violation had occurred. However, if there is a violation, the court may impose a sentence for the crime, up to the maximum penalty, which may include jail time and fines.
A deferred sentence is usually negotiated between the district attorney and the defendant's lawyer. First-time minor offenses are the most likely cases to be eligible for a deferred sentence. This may include simple drug possession for personal use, traffic violations, or public intoxication. It may be much more difficult to get a deferred sentence offer with a prior criminal record, after a drunk driving arrest, or if charged with a serious felony offense.
“In any case in which the defendant has entered a plea of guilty, the court accepting the plea has the power, with the written consent of the defendant and his or her attorney of record and the district attorney, to continue the case for the purpose of entering judgment and sentence upon the plea of guilty for a period not to exceed four years for a felony or two years for a misdemeanor or petty offense or traffic offense. The period shall begin to run from the date that the court continues the case.”1
Successful completion of the court-ordered probationary terms is required to have the case against you dropped. The exact terms of the deferred judgment and sentencing offer will depend on the criminal offense, the defendant, their prior criminal history, the victims involved, and the judge involved. Typical conditions may include:
- Random drug testing
- Anger management classes
- Drug or alcohol education classes
- Prohibited contact with certain individuals
- Prohibition from certain locations
- Limited travel privileges
- Job or school attendance
- Community service
- Letters of apology
- Restitution to victims
- No additional law violations
The probationary term will depend on the offense, which means meeting the detailed conditions for the probationary period. The period could be up to 4 years for a felony or up to 2 years for a misdemeanor. In some cases, the period could be extended.
After successfully completing the terms of your deferred judgment and sentence, your guilty plea will be withdrawn and the district attorney will dismiss your case. Your criminal record will be eligible to have your arrest sealed so the public and employers will generally not be able to see any evidence of a criminal history.
If the only condition the defendant has not fulfilled is a failure to pay victim restitution, the probationary terms can be extended if they were unable to pay. Upon showing they were unable to pay restitution, with no other violations, the probationary period may be extended for up to 182 days.2
For any other probationary violations, or upon an arrest for another criminal charge, the defendant may lose their opportunity for a deferred sentence. The stipulation shall provide that upon a breach of any condition, the court shall enter judgment and impose a sentence upon the guilty plea. Entering into a deferred judgment waives your right to a speedy trial.3
The court may have the discretion to continue the deferred judgment if the record shows that the defendant would be better served and the public safety would not be jeopardized. However, the court will impose additional and immediate sanctions, which may include extending the time period of deferred judgment for up to two years or incarceration for up to 90 days.4
After successful completion of the deferred judgment and sentence, there is no criminal conviction. The case would be dropped by the district attorney. When applying for a job, if the application asks if you have been convicted of a crime, there would be no conviction for the deferred sentence case.
After completing the deferred sentencing conditions, your records are eligible to be sealed. However, sealing your records is not automatic. After completing the terms of your deferred sentence you will have to petition to seal your records. Once your records are sealed, the public and employers would not have access to the arrest information.
Colorado provides a number of alternative sentences, depending on the criminal offense, nature of the crime, the defendant's history, and other factors. Alternatives to a judgment imposing a sentence include probation, specialized restitution and community service programs, home detention, and community corrections programs.
The law provides alternative imposition of sentences for certain level 4 drug felony cases. During sentencing or resentence after revocation of probation, the court may consider all reasonable and appropriate alternative sentences, including treatment programs or probation.
Some individuals may be able to leave detention during necessary and reasonable hours for seeking employment, working, attending school, or seeking medical treatment. Home detention is an alternative correctional sentence where the defendant remains within their approved residence at all times except for court-approved activities.
When the defendant entered into alternative sentencing, the court may enter an order of collateral relief which is intended to improve the defendant's likelihood of success, including preserving or improving the defendant's job and employment prospects.
Call us for help...
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, a deferred sentence may allow you to avoid a conviction on your criminal record. However, a deferred sentence may not be the best option. If you have any questions about a deferred sentence, contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group.
- C.R.S. 18-1.3-102(1)(a)
- C.R.S. 18-1.3-102(1)(b)
- C.R.S. 18-1.3-102(3)
- C.R.S. 18-1.3-102(2)