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What is a Colorado Deferred Judgment?

A Deferred Judgement is a legal device – sometimes negotiated on behalf of those with no or a minor criminal history and the charges are non violent – that permits the parties – the DA, the Defendant through his or her lawyer to agree to enter a “conditional guilty plea.” The agreement is like all contracts – it requires the judge’s approval and has conditions that must be followed for the contract to be fulfilled.

If the Defendant complies with the agreement’s conditions – such as public service hours, payment of restitution to the victim in the case, counseling, payment of fines and court costs and the like, at the end of the period of the deferred – (which can be as little as 6 months for a misdemeanor to as long as four years for a felony, the plea of guilty is withdrawn – the case is dismissed and is then eligible to be sealed or expunged.

The matter does NOT disappear from the Defendant’s criminal history. I am asked this question almost every week – it is dismissed but REMAINS ON YOUR RECORD! Unless the Defendant takes the next steps to file a civil action to have the matter removed –a Petition to Seal the Record.

During the period of the DJ and S as it is called, offenders are placed under the supervision of the probation department.

Here is the catch – it a complaint to violate the DJ and S is filed alleging non-compliance – the Defendant is entitled to a hearing, after which the Judge may enter judgment of conviction (if the violation is proven) and sentence them as if the guilty plea had been taken without the stipulation.

If that occurs, the Defendant may receive any sentence authorized by law, including probation.

Here is the Actual Law in Colorado that establishes the conditions of a Deferred Judgement

CRS 18-1.3-102. Deferred Sentencing of Defendan
  1. 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 a period not to exceed four years from the date of entry of a plea to a felony or two years from the date of entry of a plea to a misdemeanor, or petty offense, or traffic offense for the purpose of entering judgment and sentence upon such plea of guilty; except that such period may be extended for an additional time up to one hundred eighty days if the failure to pay restitution is the sole condition of supervision which has not been fulfilled, because of inability to pay, and the defendant has shown a future ability to pay. During such time, the court may place the defendant under the supervision of the probation department.
  2. Prior to entry of a plea of guilty to be followed by deferred judgment and sentence, the district attorney, in the course of plea discussion as provided in sections 16-7-301 and 16-7-302, C.R.S., is authorized to enter into a written stipulation, to be signed by the defendant, the defendant’s attorney of record, and the district attorney, under which the defendant is obligated to adhere to such stipulation. The conditions imposed in the stipulation shall be similar in all respects to conditions permitted as part of probation. Any person convicted of a crime, the underlying factual basis of which included an act of domestic violence, as defined in section 18-6-800.3 (1), shall stipulate to the conditions specified in section 18-1.3-204 (2) (b). In addition, the stipulation may require the defendant to perform community or charitable work service projects or make donations thereto. 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. Such stipulation shall specifically provide that, upon a breach by the defendant of any condition regulating the conduct of the defendant, the court shall enter judgment and impose sentence upon such guilty plea. When, as a condition of the deferred sentence, the court orders the defendant to make restitution, evidence of failure to pay the said restitution shall constitute prima facie evidence of a violation. Whether a breach of condition has occurred shall be determined by the court without a jury upon application of the district attorney or a probation officer and upon notice of hearing thereon of not less than five days to the defendant or the defendant’s attorney of record. Application for entry of judgment and imposition of sentence may be made by the district attorney or a probation officer at any time within the term of the deferred judgment or within thirty days thereafter. The burden of proof at such hearing shall be by a preponderance of the evidence, and the procedural safeguards required in a revocation of probation hearing shall apply.
  3. When a defendant signs a stipulation by which it is provided that judgment and sentence shall be deferred for a time certain, he or she thereby waives all rights to a speedy trial, as provided in section 18-1-405.
  4. A warrant for the arrest of any defendant for breach of a condition of a deferred sentence may be issued by any judge of a court of record upon the report of a probation officer, or upon the verified complaint of any person, establishing to the satisfaction of the judge probable cause to believe that a condition of the deferred sentence has been violated and that the arrest of the defendant is reasonably necessary. The warrant may be executed by any probation officer or by a peace officer authorized to execute warrants in the county in which the defendant is found.
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