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A deferred sentence is a court-passed judgment that allows a probationary period before imposing the sentence. This option might be given in cases when repeat offenses are unlikely, when the accused has no criminal record or often at the judge’s discretion. If at the end of the probationary time the defendant has met all imposed conditions, a judge might throw out the sentence and guilty plea, leaving the defendant without a recorded conviction for most purposes.
To receive a deferred sentence, a defendant must plead guilty to some or all of the crimes with which he or she is charged. Usually, a defendant is offered a deal to plead guilty under the promise of a deferred sentence, to settle a case quickly. The judge decides what the sentence for the crimes would be if convicted, so the court release will often stipulate a deferred prison sentence of a certain number of years. The years specified constitute the term that the defendant must serve if he or she fails to meet the conditions of the probationary period.
Terms of Probation
A judge can order many types of actions to be completed during the probationary period. In addition to regular meetings with a parole or probation officer, some people might be required to attend drug and alcohol counseling, seek psychiatric help, pay fines or maintain support payments to any spouses or children. The defendant also cannot be convicted of another crime during the probationary period.
At the end of the specified probation, which usually is a term of 12-24 months, the judge will review the case. If the defendant has met all of the conditions, the judge will most likely throw out the guilty plea and enter a non-conviction judgment. For most purposes, this action will allow the defendant to legally state that he or she has never been convicted of a crime. In some cases, however, deferred sentences can remain in the criminal record of the accused.
If a defendant fails to meet the requirements of the deferred sentence, the judge can order the defendant's arrest. In many cases, that person will then have to serve the entirety of the original sentence. The deferred decision gives the court time to observe the accused more closely and gives the defendant a chance to turn around his or her life and provide proof of his or her law-abiding behavior. The court often treats harshly any violation of the terms of probation or other impositions of a deferred sentence.