General Concepts of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA)
Generally, there are two types of deferred resolutions to criminal charges: a Deferred Prosecution and a Deferred Judgment (or Deferred Acceptance of Guilty Plea). In a Deferred Prosecution arrangement, the proceedings in a criminal case are put off for a period of time subject to certain conditions being fulfilled by the defendant. The most important condition is that the defendant not be charged or convicted of other crimes during this period. At the end of the time period, if all conditions have been met, the charges are dismissed. No plea of guilty or judgment of conviction is entered. If the defendant doesn't comply with the conditions of the deferred prosecution, the prosecution of the case continues.
With a Deferred Judgment, the defendant must enter a plea of guilty. Although, the court does accept the plea as valid, it does not adjudge the defendant guilty at that time. The case is continued for a period of time subject to certain conditions being fulfilled, usually including that the defendant not be convicted of another crime. If the defendant satisfies these conditions, at the end of the time period, the guilty plea is considered withdrawn and no judgment of conviction or sentence is entered.
The first option is the better of the two because, while the defendant is free to say they were never convicted of a crime, the guilty plea could have possible future ramifications. For example, Deferred Judgments are counted in computing a defendant's criminal history score under the federal sentencing guidelines. They also may be counted against a defendant dealing with issues of immigration and naturalization and deportation from the country. Further, if the defendant violates the terms of a Deferred Judgment, the guilty plea previously made is automatically accepted and the defendant is adjudged guilty without a trial
Obviously, from a defendant's standpoint, a Deferred Prosecution is preferable to a Deferred Judgment. Prosecutors also offer this option far less frequently. Because such agreements can have big risks, it is a good idea to discuss any decision to accept or enter into a Deferred Prosecution or Deferred Judgment with a qualified criminal defense lawyer.