For certain types of offenses, if you are eligible, you can avoid getting any conviction at all with deferred entry of judgment (DEJ). For adults, DEJ is available only for certain drug offenses, while for juveniles, it is available for most felonies. With DEJ, the defendant pleads guilty, but the court does not enter the judgment, so the conviction is never finalized. After a specified period of time, 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 innocent 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.
Adult Deferred Entry of Judgment – Penal Code 1000
Under Penal Code section 1000, a variety of drug defendants are entitled to DEJ for a period of 18 months to three years, while the defendant completes some type of drug treatment and keeps from getting any new convictions. If, for some reason, you fail DEJ, you can still do Proposition 36 probation if you are eligible. However, DEJ has many more eligible offenses than Proposition 36, so your particular offense may make you eligible for DEJ, but not Proposition 36.
Qualifying Offenses for Deferred Entry of Judgment
Possession of Controlled Substances/Solvents/Marijuana/Concentrated Cannabis – Health and Safety Code sections 11350, 11357 and 11377, Penal Code section 381, and Business and Professions Code section 4060
Possession of Drug – Paraphernalia Health and Safety Code section 11364
Aiding and Abetting in the Use of Certain Drugs – Health and Safety Code section 11365
Being Under the Influence of Illegal Drugs – Health and Safety Code section 11550 and Penal Code section 647(f)
Cultivation of Marjuana – Health and Safety Code section 11358 (only if the marijuana planted, cultivated, harvested, dried, or processed is for personal use)
Forging or Using a Forged Prescription to Obtain Drugs – Health and Safety Code section 11368 (only if the drugs were for personal use)
Driving While Possessing Marijuana – Vehicle Code section 23222(b)
Soliciting Drug-Related Acts – Penal Code section 653f(d) (only if the acts were directed at personal use)
Other Eligibility Qualifications for Deferred Entry of Judgment
You must have no prior convictions involving controlled substances.
The offense you are charged with cannot involve a crime of violence.
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.
You cannot have ever in the past failed to successfully complete probation or parole.
You cannot have previously done DEJ within the last five years.
You cannot have any prior felony convictions within the last five years.
Participation in Deferred Entry of Judgment
If both the offense you are charged with and your criminal record qualify you for DEJ, then you will be placed in a program, with conditions to be determined by the court, for a period of 18 to 36 months. The requirements will vary from county to county, but generally you are required to stay out of trouble and participate in a minimal amount of drug treatment. DEJ is much less demanding that Proposition 36 probation. You will successfully complete DEJ, unless the court finds one of the following things:
You are performing unsatisfactorily in the program.
You are not benefiting from education, treatment or rehabilitation.
You have been convicted of a felony.
You have been convicted of a misdemeanor reflecting a propensity for violence.
You have been engaged in criminal conduct that makes you unsuitable for DEJ.
Assuming none of the above happens, after the term of your DEJ is completed, your case will be dismissed, with judgment of your conviction never entered. You can honestly say that you have not been convicted of this offense AND you can even legally say that you were not even arrested for this offense, unless you are applying to be a police officer.
So many people, who are not otherwise criminals, are made into criminals in California and across the country, simply because they choose to use drugs. A person who uses drugs is not necessarily harming anyone else and should be able to do whatever they want with their own lives, without being made into criminals for it. However, the drug war is in effect and hundreds of thousands of people are being arrested every year. While this pointless war on our own people goes on with no end in sight, it’s good to know that at least there are many ways to avoid getting a conviction if you are caught with drugs. There’s nothing I enjoy more than helping someone avoid becoming a victim of the war on drugs.
Juvenile Deferred Entry of Judgment
Since so many people do stupid things that get them in trouble with the law when they are young, it is important to do whatever is possible to avoid creating a record of juvenile delinquency that will affect a minor later in life. Thankfully, for juveniles, deferred entry of judgment is available, pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 790, for most first-time felony offenses, even if they are not drug related. Once the minor stays out of trouble and completes the 1 to 3 year program, the case will be dismissed and the arrest record will be sealed.
Eligibility Requirements for Juvenile Deferred Entry of Judgment
The minor must be at least 14 years old.
The minor cannot have been previously declared a ward of the court for committing a felony offense.
The current offense cannot be one of the very serious felonies listed in either Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b) or Penal Code section 1203.06.
The minor cannot have been previously committed to the California Youth Authority.
The minor cannot have any record of having probation revoked without being completed.
Once the minor is determined to be eligible for DEJ, the probation department will determine whether the minor is suitable for DEJ. A minor is suitable for DEJ if probation’s investigation and consideration of the defendant's age, maturity, educational background, family relationships, motivation, treatment history, if any, and other mitigating and aggravating factors suggest that the minor is a person who would be benefited by education, treatment, or rehabilitation. The minor will successfully complete DEJ after 1 to 3 years, unless the court that the minor is not complying with the terms of probation or is not benefiting from education, treatment, and rehabilitation. If the minor does successfully complete the DEJ period, the case is dismissed and it is as if the minor was never even arrested.