- Deferred Adjudication
Deferred adjudication is a form of plea deal available in various jurisdictions, where a defendant pleads "guilty" or "No Contest" to criminal charges in exchange for meeting certain requirements laid out by the court within an allotted period of time also ordered by the court. Upon completion of the requirements, which may include probation, treatment, community service, or some form of community supervision, the defendant may avoid a formal conviction on their record or have their case dismissed. In some cases, an order of non-disclosure can be obtained, and sometimes a record can be expunged.
In Maryland, deferred adjudication is called "Probation Before Judgment" or "PBJ" for short. The conditions of this principle are set down in Title §6–220 of the state's Criminal Procedure article. This law enables a judge to defer entering a judgment (that is, delay the entry of a "guilty" verdict) if the defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere in writing, so long as certain conditions are met. Because the judgment is not entered as "guilty," a PBJ does not legally count as a conviction for a crime, and therefore the defendant is spared some hardships of having a criminal record, e.g. for purposes of job applications he or she does not have to disclose it as a conviction, though a full criminal background check will still reveal the case.
The defendant, however, is still placed on probation and can be compelled to pay a monetary fine or other restitution, enroll in a drug rehabilitation program, work community service hours, and/or less frequently, sentenced to imprisonment or alternative confinement. If the defendant carries out their sentence and behaves within the conditions of their probation (i.e. commits no further crimes), they become eligible for expungement 3 years after the judgment or when their probation ends, whichever is later (in some cases they can file early if they can show "good cause" to a judge). Expungement is not automatically requested; the defendant is responsible for filing for it at court once their time is up.
Controversy and ethics
Anyone offered Deferred Adjudication in exchange for a guilty plea should first consult their attorney regarding the exact consequences of doing so. In all jurisdictions, the case itself that resulted in the Deferred Adjudication remains in the record permanently, though what effect this has and how the record can be discovered or disclosed varies. For example, the record always remains visible to law enforcement and some high-level government background checks, but some states allow for the record to be rendered inaccessible to the public or private-sector background checks.
In some states such as Texas, Deferred Adjudication is not treated as a criminal conviction as a matter of law, however there is no easy way to remove the record of the case from one's background. This creates difficulties with private entities performing background checks such as employers and apartment complexes, as they can see the case, charge and its outcome, and often simply treat it the same as though it were a conviction for purposes of their review.
Some who have taken Deferred Adjudication have been dismayed later in finding that, contrary to what they are told in court, their state legislature does not allow for their record to be cleared, and they are forever deemed a convicted criminal in the eyes of the anyone looking at their record. Interestingly, because no conviction was finalized, even the Governor is unable to grant a full Pardon to remove this criminal state as could be done with an actual criminal conviction.
Currently, there are several organizations that are protesting the way Deferred Adjudication has been offered and the alleged trickery of prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys in getting defendants to accept Deferred Adjudication and the offenses for which prosecutors offer Deferred Adjudication.
- ^ ""Deferred Adjudication Law & Legal Definition" USLegal Definitions, USLegal, Inc". http://definitions.uslegal.com/d/deferred-adjudication/.
- ^ "Annotated Code of Maryland: Criminal Procedure § 6-220. "Probation before judgment"". http://mlis.state.md.us/asp/statutes_respond_2011.asp?article=gcp§ion=6-220&Extension=HTML. Retrieved 22 November 2010.
- ^ "Expungement - Removing Criminal Records from Public Access". http://www.courts.state.md.us/expungement/. Retrieved 22 November 2010.
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