Understanding Deferred Judgments & Sentences

February 28, 2022 | Bill Henry

Deferred judgments and sentences allow certain individuals charged with a crime to avoid conviction if they complete certain requirements during a probationary period. If you’re facing a criminal conviction, obtaining a deferred judgment could help you get the charges dismissed. This article explains what a deferred judgment is, how it works, and who is eligible for one.

Learn More About Deferred Judgments

Obtaining a deferred judgment can mean the difference between having a criminal record and having one follow you for the rest of your life. Call 303-688-0944 to start your free criminal law case assessment.

What are Deferred Judgments?

Deferred judgments and sentences allow defendants to essentially put their case on hold while they complete a probationary period. During that time, the court expects the defendant to stay out of trouble and complete all of the probation provisions. The defendant, the prosecutor, and the court must agree to a deferred judgment and its requirements.

Now, a condition of a deferred judgment is that the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the charges, but as long as the probation requirements are completed, the court will not enter the guilty plea. In fact, the charges will be dismissed.

Upon full compliance with such conditions by the defendant, the plea of guilty previously entered shall be withdrawn and the charge upon which the judgment and sentence of the court was deferred shall be dismissed with prejudice. Colorado Revised Statute § 18-1.3-102 (2)

A case dismissed with prejudice is the final ruling in a case. And this means the prosecutor cannot refile the charges against the defendant.

Once the charges are dismissed, you may also be able to have them sealed from the general public.

Conditions of Deferred Judgments 

So, what types of conditions might you be required to complete if you are granted a deferred judgment? The answer to that really depends on the type of charges you face and your criminal history.

The court can order all types of requirements, including but not limited to:
  • no additional arrests
  • monitored sobriety through random drug and alcohol screenings
  • domestic violence counseling
  • avoid certain people or places
  • payment of fines or restitution to victims
  • community service
  • remain employed

Deferred Judgments Our Team Obtained for Clients

Case One: A client sought the help of our Criminal Defense Team after being charged with two counts of assault that included a domestic violence enhancer. We successfully negotiated with the district attorney to reduce the charge to fighting in public. And the court agreed to give our client a deferred judgment. As our client completes the conditions of the probationary period, the guilty plea of fighting in public will be withdrawn and the case will be dismissed.

Case Two: After being charged with criminal mischief for damaging someone’s vehicle, an individual reached out to R&H criminal defense attorneys. Following discussions with the prosecutor, we reached a deferred judgment agreement. Our client agreed to pay for the damage to the vehicle and break no new laws for one year. As long as our client adheres to these provisions, the charge will be dropped and the case will be dismissed.

Who is Eligible for a Deferred Judgment?

Deferred judgments are possible to obtain in a variety of cases. Most often, though, they are reserved for individuals who have committed a lower-level offense and do not have a criminal history. However, it is possible for people charged with a higher-level felony to receive a deferred judgment. Courts generally do not extend deferred judgments to defendants charged with violent crimes.

How Long Does the Deferred Judgment Last?

Typically, deferred judgments range anywhere from six months to four years. State law prohibits deferred judgments on felony cases to run longer than four years.

Individuals charged with misdemeanors, petty violations, and traffic offenses cannot receive a deferred sentence that exceeds two years.

The deferred judgment period begins from the date when the court continues the case.

When Deferred Judgments Can be Extended

Sex Crimes

State law allows the court to increase deferred judgments on sex crimes by up to two years if good cause is shown and if the prosecutor and defendant agree to it. C.R.S. § 18-1.3-102 (1)(II)

Restitution Continuation

The court may permit a defendant extra time to finish paying restitution if that is the only requirement left to complete in his or her deferred judgment.

The reason for the nonpayment must be due to an inability to pay – not an unwillingness to pay. If that is the case, state law allows the court to give a defendant up to 182 additional days to pay the restitution if they can show they are able to pay the restitution in the future.

What Happens if I Violate the Terms of the Probationary Period?

Generally speaking, if you violate the terms of your deferred judgment, the court will enter your guilty plea and sentence you.

NOTE: When you sign a deferred judgment agreement, you waive your right to a speedy trial.

If the violation is related to Colorado’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 2013, the court may choose to continue the deferred judgment in certain circumstances.

The court can continue the probation if it finds the following are true:
  • the entry of judgment and sentencing would not be consistent with the purposes of sentencing,
  • the defendant would be better served by continuing the deferred judgment period, and
  • public safety would not be jeopardized by the continuation of the deferred judgment.

If the court chooses to continue the deferred judgment despite the prosecution’s objections, the court is required by law to impose immediate penalties to address the violation.

In addition to the requirements already in place, additional sanctions must include:
  • further terms and conditions that will enhance the likelihood of the defendant’s success
  • a response to the defendant’s noncompliance
  • promote further individual accountability
  • extend the deferred judgment period for up to two additional years, sentence the defendant to no more than 90 days in county jail, or both

Can I Get a Deferred Judgment?

Receiving a deferred judgment can change the trajectory of your future. A deferred judgment is the court’s way of giving you a second chance. Talk to our attorneys about your criminal case and find out if they may be able to negotiate a deferred judgment for you. Start your free case assessment when you call 303-688-0944.

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