Being charged with a crime is never a fun experience; for those who have never had any previous exposure to the criminal justice system, it can be downright terrifying. You may be wondering what will happen to you in the coming months. Will the District Attorney throw the book at me? Will I go to jail? Will I have a criminal record that follows me the rest of my life?
Fortunately, the justice system realizes that everyone makes mistakes and that one simple lapse in judgment should not haunt you for the rest of your life. There are several options available to people facing criminal charges who have no prior criminal history. These programs, called “Deferred Prosecution Programs” provide a way for a defendant to resolve their case without ending up with a criminal conviction on their record.
As a general rule, deferred prosecution programs are only available for people who have committed low level misdemeanor offenses, such as larceny, minor drug charges, and simple assault. These programs are generally available to people who have never been convicted of a crime or have never previously completed a first offender program.
A deferred prosecution agreement is a contract between the District Attorney’s Office and a defendant. Under the typical agreement, the case will be continued for a period of time in order for the defendant to complete certain tasks as set forth in the agreement. If the defendant successfully upholds his end of the bargain, the District Attorney will dismiss the defendant’s charges. The details of each individual agreement will vary based on the specific crime, but they all tend to include the same basic provisions the defendant must complete in order to earn their dismissal:
- The defendant must do community service at a non-profit organization and provide proof of completion.
- The defendant must not have any new criminal charges or convictions while his court case is still pending.
- Depending on the nature of the crime, the defendant may have to attend counseling classes and provide proof of compliance with any recommended treatment.
The catch is that the District Attorney usually makes the defendant sign a written confession admitting their guilt to the pending charge. This is the prosecutor’s “insurance policy” in case the defendant fails to uphold his end of the bargain. If the defendant fails to comply, the District Attorney will use this confession to easily convict the defendant of their crime.
However, if the defendant successfully completes everything required of him, the District Attorney will completely dismiss the criminal charges.
If you face criminal charges, you may wonder whether you’re eligible for a first-offender program or some other kind of deferred prosecution program. Even if you doubt you’re eligible, the advice of an attorney who knows the ins and outs of the criminal justice system in Wake County and the surrounding area can help you understand all of your options. (Even if you are eligible, a deferred prosecution program may not be in your best interest; it is extremely important that immigrants who find themselves being offered such a program consult with an experienced criminal AND immigration attorney.) The experienced attorneys at Guirguis Law can educate and advise you, and then represent you throughout the entire process.