What is a deferred judgment?
Under Iowa Code Section 907.3 (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/907.3.pdf), a deferred judgment is a special adjudication where, after the defendant enters a guilty plea or jury gives a guilty verdict, the court defers judgment and puts the defendant on probation. If the defendant successfully completes probation the criminal case records are expunged under Section 907.9 (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/907.9.pdf). Expunged cases are considered confidential records under Section 22.7 (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/22.7.pdf). They are only accessible to the defendant, defendant’s attorney, or someone with a signed waiver from the defendant. In essence, in these cases the Court does not accept the guilty plea or proceed to criminal sentencing. Jail time is not part of the adjudication, but you are still required to pay a fine and serve probation. A deferred judgment does not generally count as a conviction, although there are some exceptions to that rule.
Many people think an expungement means that the case record is never accessible to anyone, but that is not true. As a confidential record, access is limited, but it still can show up on a background check if the inquirer has a signed waiver from the defendant.
What happens if my probation gets revoked?
If you breach the conditions of your probation, your probation officer might recommend that the court revoke your probation and deferred judgment. When this happens, you lose your deferred judgment and the court enters a conviction against you. It becomes as if you were originally convicted and you may be required to serve time in jail or prison.
Am I eligible for a deferred judgment?
Iowa law provides that a person is eligible for two deferred judgments in their lifetime. In practice, the second one is left almost entirely to the discretion of the Court. Both felonies and misdemeanors are eligible for a deferred judgment. However, certain crimes, like drunk driving (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/321J.2.pdf) with a BAC over 0.15 or failure to register as a sex offender (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/692A.111.pdf), are never eligible. Because a deferred judgment does not generally count as a conviction, it can be a great option for many defendants. Additionally, expungement of the record means the defendant can protect their reputation by successfully completing probation.
If you’ve been charged with a crime a skillful lawyer can make the difference between getting a conviction or deferred judgement. Here at Stowers & Nelsen (http://www.stowerslaw.com), we have successfully negotiated deferred judgments for everything from misdemeanors to felonies. Give us a call at 515-224-7446 and see if we can help you avoid a conviction!