This concept has to do with a person not actually being sentenced and convicted of a crime. The prosecutors and judges will permit this type of resolution in a criminal case in Los Angeles if they're trying to give the criminal defendant a break or a chance to show them that they don't deserve to have a criminal conviction on their record. So, typically what will happen is the person will plead guilty to the crime, but the judge will not sentence them. By not sentencing them, that does not cause a conviction to go onto their criminal record. The case will then be continued for a period of time. Sometimes it's continued for approximately a year and then the individual will be told to do certain things. For example, to do some community service, some sort of classes, and obviously remain arrest and trouble-free.
If after the year the individual does everything they're supposed to do, then that guilty plea can be taken back, a not guilty plea can be entered in its place and a case can be dismissed as though the person hadn't got it. This keeps the person's record clean, avoids any conviction and is a nice mechanism to protect someone's record, especially somebody who doesn't deserve to have a conviction on their criminal record in Los Angeles.
Now, it used to be that deferred entry of judgment in LA was reserved for drug cases, but I'm seeing more and more that it can be utilized in almost any case. Obviously, if the prosecutor and judge agree to it. So, it can be related to a theft crime case. It can be related to some other case. Usually, you're not going to get it for a violent offense unless the prosecutors are willing to change that violent offense or some other offense once they really get a look at the facts and circumstances of the case.
As far as how you would get the deferred entry of judgment, obviously that's something that's going to have to be negotiated by your attorney with the prosecutor, or even sometimes with the judge. The prosecutor has control of what the charges are, where the judge has control over what the sentence is. Most deferred entry of judgment situations are agreed upon between the prosecutor and the defense attorney and then the judge just pretty much puts his or her blessing on it and agrees to go along with it. I have seen some judges not agree to go along, in which case something else has to be figured out, or that particular judge has to be convinced as to why the deferred entry of judgment resolution is a fair one under the circumstances, because a lot of time the judges don't have all the facts and details that the attorneys have. They only have a limited vision of what happened in the case, so it would be up to the defense attorney to now educate the judge and convince him to give the deferred entry of judgment resolution. A lot of the arguments are going to be the same arguments that the defense attorney used to convince the prosecutor to permit the client to plead guilty and get the case resolved later.
Now, one interesting thing is, what happens if while you're on the deferred entry of judgment in Los Angeles, you violate the terms of that deferred entry of judgment? For example, you pick up a new case. You don't do what you're supposed to. If you do that, then what they will do is they will take your guilty plea and they'll sentence you. You'll end up with a conviction and you'll probably end up with a worse punishment. Sometimes when they set these entries of judgment deals up, they basically say, okay if you do everything you get the dismissal, but if you don't do everything and you mess up the deferred entry of judgment, you're now going to get this, and they put a certain punishment in there – ninety days in jail for example – and then you end up with a conviction on your criminal record versus getting no jail time and avoiding the criminal conviction.
So, deferred entry of judgment is a great thing as long as you're going to follow through, do what you're supposed to and not have any issues in the future.