In California, there are certain types of criminal offenses, if you are eligible, which will allow you to avoid getting any conviction at all. It is known as Deferred Entry of Judgment (sometimes referred to as DEJ). For adults, DEJ is used primarily for certain drug offenses. However, more recently the Orange County District Attorney's office has been allowing the use of DEJ in settling other relatively minor (non-violent) criminal offenses, such as Petty Theft and Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License. With DEJ, the defendant pleads guilty, but the court does not enter the judgment, so the conviction is never finalized. The court will impose specified sanctions (such as mandatory attendance at offender rehabilitation programs, fines and/or penalties) to be completed within a certain period of time. In exchange, if all requirements are satisfactorily performed and no new offenses have caused the court to revoke DEJ, the case will be dismissed, without any conviction ever having been entered.
However, unlike with diversion, with DEJ you have already pled guilty, so if you fail to successfully complete the program, you cannot then plead not guilty and go to trial. For this reason, it's important that you and your attorney discuss all possibilities and decide on a strategy that will bring you the outcome most likely to work for you.
Thereafter, the defendant may lawfully indicate in response to questions concerning his or her prior criminal record that he or she was not convicted of a criminal offense The only exception to this is on subsequent peace officer applications, in which case the defendant may not omit reference to the arrest and judgment.
Below are some of the Eligibility and Qualifications for Deferred Entry of Judgment. This list is not exhaustive and does not guarantee that your individual case is eligible for DEJ.
1. You must have no prior convictions involving controlled substances (just for prior drug charges).
2. The offense you are charged with cannot involve a crime of violence.
3. There must be no evidence that you committed any drug offense, such as sale or possession for sale, other than one of the listed offenses (just for prior drug charges).
4. You cannot have ever in the past failed to successfully complete probation or parole.
5. You cannot have previously done DEJ within the last five years.
6. You cannot have any prior felony convictions within the last five years.
If you are facing possible criminal charges or have already been charged and would like to see if your case is eligible for Deferred Entry of Judgment, contact our offices for a free consultation of your case.