What Is a Deferred Judgment in Colorado?

If you have only a minor or nonexistent criminal history and have been charged with a crime in Colorado, you may benefit from a deferred judgment. However, this option is not the best for everyone. Below is some information about deferred judgments and how they can impact your future.  

What Is a Deferred Judgment or Deferred Sentence?

A deferred judgment is a specific type of plea agreement that can be used to avoid a conviction. It is most commonly available to defendants who have non-violent charges and a limited criminal background. If you enter into a deferred judgment agreement, you will submit a guilty plea for the charge in question. However, your plea will be conditional and you will not be sentenced for a specific amount of time, giving you a chance to meet certain requirements and clear yourself of the charge. As long as you satisfy the terms of the agreement, which may include probation, community service, substance abuse treatment, or other similar remedies, your plea of guilty will be withdrawn, and your charges will be dismissed with prejudice. 

It is important to note that, even after your guilty plea has been withdrawn, the incident will still appear on background checks unless you apply to have the records sealed. 

Who Can Qualify for a Deferred Judgment and Sentence?

Under Colorado criminal law, deferred judgments and deferred sentencing will be available only when the judge, district attorney, and defendant (usually communicating through their attorney of record) all agree to the terms of the arrangement. In most cases, this means that the defendant's offense must be something relatively minor, such as a traffic offense or minor domestic violence charge. It may be more difficult to qualify for a deferred judgment if your charge is more serious, such as charges related to sex crimes or other violent offenses. Regardless of the severity of the offense, your attorney of record and the district attorney will typically negotiate the terms of the deferred judgment before asking for approval from the court. 

Benefits of a Deferred Judgment

You will gain several notable benefits if you agree to a deferred judgment and carry out all of your responsibilities under the agreement successfully. These benefits include:

  • A chance to avoid a conviction - With a deferred judgment, you may be able to avoid a conviction altogether simply by meeting all the terms of the agreement. As long as you have no prior convictions, this means that you can answer "no" when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime. 
  • Ability to seal the record - If you complete the process successfully and you are able to avoid a conviction, you also have the opportunity to have the record sealed so it won't appear on criminal background checks, thus eliminating it from your history forever. 
  • No court battle - Deferred judgments are developed through plea bargaining, which means you won't have to go to trial to fight your charges. This can save you time, money, and stress. 
  • An opportunity to improve your life - In many cases, the court orders accompanying a deferred judgment will be designed to help or support you. For example, if your charge was related to substance use, you may undergo court-ordered treatment. Although it may seem like a hassle, these measures can be helpful as well. 

Drawbacks of a Deferred Judgment

Although a deferred judgment is often a good choice, it can also come with drawbacks. Entering into a deferred sentencing agreement requires you to accept a guilty plea. Once you have given your written consent for this arrangement, you no longer have the option to plead not guilty. In addition, if you fail to comply with any term included in your deferred sentencing agreement, you can be immediately convicted and sentenced according to Colorado law, even up to the maximum allowable sentence for your charge. In most cases, any violation will lead to a conviction. However, if your only violation is a failure to pay restitution by the end of the agreement, the court may grant additional time. 

Some people may also struggle with the idea that the deferred judgment period is so lengthy. By law, the case can only be continued for a period not to exceed two years or four years, depending on the charge in question. However, spending years completing the requirements of your deferred judgment agreement can be daunting. 

Making a Decision

If you think you may qualify for a deferred judgment and want to explore this option, the best thing you can do is consult a Colorado criminal defense lawyer. A criminal lawyer who has experience with deferred judgments can review your case and tell you whether deferred sentencing could be an option for you. If your lawyer determines that you could qualify for a deferred judgment, they can also help you decide whether this is the best course of action in your case. 

When working with a criminal defense attorney, remember that the attorney client relationship is protected by law. Anything you tell your attorney is privileged and must be kept confidential. For this reason, it is in your best interest to be open and honest with your attorney when discussing all facts associated with your case, as well as your willingness and ability to meet the terms of the deferred sentencing arrangement. Your attorney will be able to give you the best possible advice only if they are fully informed. 

Contact a Colorado Criminal Lawyer

Once you plead guilty or not guilty the court will proceed with sentencing, so it is important to consider the possibility of a deferred judgment before making any other moves. 

If you are facing criminal charges and want to learn more about the possibility of deferred sentencing, you need to contact an experienced Colorado criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Our law firm has experience with these cases, and we can help you explore all of your options. We have dealt with clients facing all types of charges, from minor charges like Colorado DUI or driving under a suspended driver’s license to more serious offenses like rape. Please contact us today to discuss your criminal case or to schedule a consultation in Denver Colorado. 


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