If you are charged with a crime, there will be one of four results when you go to court. Dismissal is the best of all results because your charges have been dropped and you are free. Jail or Prison time is obviously the worst result because it means you will be incarcerated for some period of time. In between these two extremes are two forms of probation: Suspended Sentence and Deferred Sentence. Let’s focus today on these two forms of probation.
If it is your first offense, your attorney may be able to get you deferred sentencing and probation instead of jail time. This alternative sentencing solution is the best possible outcome other than an outright dismissal. A deferred sentence allows you to have your court record sealed after successfully completing all of the court-ordered probation. This means having all of your fines and DA supervision paid, as well as, completing any special orders like Drug and Alcohol Assessment, DUI School, or Batters Intervention Program, and obviously, you must not break any federal, state, municipal, or tribal laws.
Having your record expunged is a tremendous advantage since a criminal record can limit your job and licensure opportunities. So how does this work? It starts with you pleading guilty to the criminal charge. However, instead of accepting the plea and rendering judgment, the judge delays judgment and sentencing, giving the defendant an opportunity to complete probation instead.
For example, a first DUI offender may plead guilty to DUI, but instead of convicting the defendant and ordering him or her to jail, the judge would defer sentencing and order the defendant to drug and alcohol treatment, community service, participating in a victim’s impact panel, and similar terms of probation.
If you were to violate probation or commit other crimes, the prosecutor will likely file a Motion to Accelerate sentencing. The judge may then accept the guilty plea and order you to serve a jail or prison sentence. If the you successfully completes your probation, the court records are updated. Your guilty plea is changed to reflect a plea of “not guilty,” and the case is dismissed. There is no criminal conviction, and through expungement, your name is stricken from court records.
A suspended sentence is different from a deferred sentence. While both types of sentencing allow you to serve probation in lieu of all or part of the jail or prison sentence, a suspended sentence results in criminal conviction, which will stay on your record. It isn’t jail or prison, but a suspended sentence pales in comparison to the benefits of a deferred sentence.