DEJ Allows Defendant Opportunity to Get Charges Dismissed
Deferred entry of judgment or Penal Code Section 1000 has to do with somebody entering a guilty plea to a crime but not being sentenced when they enter that guilty plea. The case is usually put over for approximately a year.
It could be less; it could be more, depending on what's worked out between the defense attorney and the prosecutor. It's set for a sentencing date, and then the defendant is ordered to do certain things. If the defendant completes those specific things, then the case will be dismissed at the time of the sentence under the typical deferred entry of judgment scenario.
That's why they're calling it deferred entry of judgment because the person's sentence is not imposed. It's deferred to a future date If the person doesn't do what they're supposed to or what they agreed to do, or if they pick up a new criminal case, the judge can then impose the sentence against the defendant.
A lot of times, the sentence is already pre-worked out. For example, if the defendant doesn't complete the deferred entry of judgment, they get 180 days in the county jail.
On the other hand, if the person completes a deferred entry of judgment, doesn't pick up any new arrests, abides by all of the terms and conditions that the prosecutor and judge lay out for them, they can get the case dismissed.
So, this whole concept of deferred entry of judgment is excellent if you can complete it because it permits you to get a dismissal in the end. You never end up getting convicted of anything because you never get sentenced for a particular case.
DEJ in Drug and Theft Crime Cases
Usually, when you see this deferred entry of judgment is with a drug crime case. For example, if somebody possesses cocaine or any other illegal drug, the prosecutors — especially on a first offense — often let the person avail themselves of a deferred entry of judgment resolution. There's also another informal deferred entry of judgment cases on other cases. For example, somebody could have a theft crime case and get deferred access to a judgment-related sentence.
They may not call it deferred entry of judgment under Penal Code 1000 because it's not drug-related. Still, it ends up having the same effect if the person pleads guilty or no contest and then the case is put over for a year, for example, and if they do certain things and do not pick up any new arrests, then they end up getting a dismissal in the end. So, it's the same as a deferred entry of judgment, but it's not necessarily called that.
Juveniles and Deferred Entry of Judgment
Also, in the juvenile court, there's something called Welfare Institution Code Section 790 where a person admits a petition, their sentencing is put over for a year, and if they complete everything, they end up getting the record dismissed and sealed and destroyed. Hence, they end up getting a little bit better than an adult offender can get under that particular scenario.
So, deferred entry of judgment is usually a good result if the prosecutors and police have done an excellent job in the case and they've got the evidence to prove you guilty — they decide to give you a break so you can end up getting a dismissal and protect your record for the future. It's not always available. Often, if the case is severe enough, the prosecutor will refuse to agree to it. Then sometimes, the attorney has to try to get it through the court and decide whether or not their client is both eligible and suitable for this deferred entry of judgment.
There's been a lot of other programs that have been enacted over the years that kind of compliment deferred entry of judgment, like Proposition 36 in a drug crime case where it is very similar to the deferred entry of judgment or DEJ where the case can ultimately get dismissed if the person completes a drug program. Also, Proposition 47 is another good one that's even better than the deferred entry of judgment.
There's a whole host of things available to people who are trying to protect their record, but obviously, they're going to have to be found suitable for those things, and they're going to have to have an attorney who can champion their rights.