If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense in North Carolina, you face severe punishments, like a jail or prison sentence and fines, if you are convicted. In addition, you would have a permanent criminal record that can affect many aspects of your life.
However, you may be able to avoid these harsh consequences through a deferred prosecution. Here is what you need to know about when it is an option and how it could help you.
What Is a Deferred Prosecution?
A deferred prosecution is an agreement between the prosecutor and a defendant for the charges to be dismissed after the defendant fulfills certain conditions, such as probation, restitution, community service, and not committing any other crimes. When entering into this agreement, the defendant waives their right to a jury trial and admits guilt. There are two types of deferred prosecution:
- Formal deferred prosecution. A formal deferred prosecution is a written agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant. The defendant is often required to complete supervised probation, community service, and restitution to victims.
- Informal deferred prosecution. This type of deferred prosecution is a verbal agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant. It is only an option for low-level misdemeanors and does not require the defendant to admit guilt at a court hearing.
Eligibility Requirements for a Deferred Prosecution
Deferred prosecutions are authorized under North Carolina G.S 15A-1341(a1). An individual is only eligible for a deferred prosecution if the following conditions are met:
- The charges must be for a low-level felony or misdemeanor offense.
- They must not have any other conviction or probations.
- The victim must be notified of the agreement and not object to it.
- They must be unlikely to commit any other crimes
In Mecklenburg County, the prosecutor has a policy of not requiring low-income defendants to pay down the restitution to victims at the beginning of the deferred prosecution. Instead, they must pay the restitution over the approximately two years that they are in the deferred prosecution program. This has allowed more defendants to get the benefits of a clean criminal record.
What Are the Pros and Cons of a Deferred Prosecution?
The obvious benefits of a deferred prosecution are that the charges are dismissed, and there is no criminal conviction. However, there are also risks. As noted above, a defendant must waive their right to a jury trial and admit to guilt.
In addition, if the person violates the terms of the agreement, the deferred prosecution would be canceled, and the prosecution would continue. They would most likely be quickly convicted of the charges against them because they would have admitted guilt and waived any defenses to the charges against them.
Can the Criminal Charge Be Expunged After a Deferred Prosecution?
After an individual successfully completes the terms of a deferred prosecution and the case is dismissed, the criminal charges are not automatically removed from their criminal record. However, they may be eligible for an expungement, which will result in law enforcement destroying the criminal records of the criminal charges.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You Obtain a Deferred Prosecution
If you are charged with any criminal charge no matter how “minor” it is, your first step should be to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney can determine what defenses you have and mount a strong defense strategy that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense with fewer penalties. They can also help you weigh all your options, including whether you are eligible for a deferred prosecution.
If you decide that you want to try to get a deferred prosecution, your lawyer can meet with the prosecutor assigned to your case to discuss this. If the offense is a minor misdemeanor charge, they may convince the prosecutor to enter into an informal deferred prosecution rather than a formal one.
Are You Looking for a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Charlotte, NC?
If you are facing criminal charges, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Charlotte office directly at 980.207.3355 to schedule your free consultation.