If you are facing a potential criminal prosecution, then a deferred sentencing resolution can be a viable option to avoid jail time or other court-sanctioned penalties for your crime or misdemeanor. But what exactly is a deferred sentence or prosecution? How does it work and who are the qualified participants? Snader Law Group shares below an overview of relevant information about deferred prosecution.
What is the Deferred Sentencing Resolution?
In a criminal prosecution, the defendant and his defense team will need to plead “guilty” or “not guilty” before a judge and receive a judgment and a sentence for your offense or felony. However, if you’re eligible for deferred prosecution, instead of facing your criminal sentence, your case is redirected to a rehabilitation program.
This voluntary diversion program is enabled by the state but is not offered in all courts. As such, it is important to bring this up with your criminal defense attorney who can review your case and manage your expectations about your hearing or the possibility of going to trial.
Years ago, you can enter this diversion even before the complaint against you has been filed and have your case dismissed. But today, pleading guilty or innocent is required. Your plea is a written admission of guilt followed by a statement of your guilt in court. The deferred sentence agreement will indicate that your case can be dismissed if you complete the program.
What if you Fail the Diversion Program?
At the time you enter the diversion process, the judge does not enter a conviction. During the program, depending on your terms, the court may impose restrictions. This includes the prohibition to carry a gun, losing your professional license, or even being deported. If the terms of deferred sentencing have not been followed, the offender’s plea agreement will determine what punishment you’ll face for the crimes or misdemeanors you’re charged with.
Who Can Receive a Deferred Sentence?
The program panel will conduct a thorough screening and assessment of the nature of the charges and criminal history of eligible defendants. This involves submitting to random drug testing. This is not a mandatory resolution so the defendant may choose not to accept it from the court and the prosecution.
Offenders who go through it are those who have drug-related violations such as illegal drug possession or substance abuse. It is also offered for those with non-drug charges like theft, shoplifting, domestic violence, traffic violations, prostitution, drinking as a minor, or anger related crimes.
The prosecuting team will look into the following factors to check how you meet the program qualifications.
- Prior criminal records and current offenses (including those that are not serious, non-violent, and not dangerous)
- Quantity of illegal substance possessed
- Usage intent (for personal use or to sell)
- Value of the item(s) stolen
- Aggravating factors leading to your charges
Should I Consider Deferred Sentencing?
Both the defendant and the court can benefit when you enter the diversion process. Aside from a quicker case resolution and savings from trial court costs, you enjoy the benefits listed below.
- Avoid a criminal prosecution or risk of a criminal trial
- Remove sentencing related to a guilty verdict (jail time or prison term)
- Avoid having a criminal record
- Faster case resolutions
- Personal benefits of undergoing recovery
Since this treatment program is authorized by the court, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help determine if you qualify for the program and how it may apply to your criminal case. You will also be working with a criminal program supervisor who is in charge of notifying your prosecutor. Once you’ve completed the rehab, a notice to resume the prosecution of your charges will be filed.
If you are already enrolled in a substance abuse recovery program that you want to continue instead of the diversion offer, your legal representative will work out an arrangement with the criminal court to make sure you satisfy the minimum standards that will still lead to your case dismissal.
How Can I Protect My Rights?
If you intend to participate in deferred prosecution, make sure to do the following:
- Work with one of the most experienced criminal defense lawyers in your area. A good criminal attorney can help increase your chances of participating in the program or defending you during prosecution should you fail to qualify for delayed sentencing.
- Commit to complete the program if you accept it. Make sure to go through the terms of the deal with your legal representative. Violation of any of these terms will lead to the court prosecuting offenders’ criminal charges.
- Watch your mouth. Any statements made in court before entering the program can be used against you in the court of law.
Don’t decide hastily. Consult Howard Snader, an attorney with much experience in criminal defense and a certified specialist in criminal law who has successfully handled criminal cases in Arizona. Make sure your defenses are solid and your rights are protected. Contact Snader Law Group today to get a free case evaluation.