Understand A DJ&S Doesn't Mean You Aren't Pleading Guilty
When you agree to accept a DJ&S, you are pleading guilty to whatever charge is in the paperwork. Let me repeat, you are admitting guilt to the charge. What is happening then is that the process is put on hold. The Judge does not sentence you as her or she might otherwise do, nor is a conviction immediately entered. There is a period of supervision which follows. At the end of the supervision, assuming you didn't violate the conditions of your DJ&S, your case is dismissed.
Know How A DJ&S Might Affect Your Life (A DJ&S May Have the Same Affect as A Guilty Plea)
If you belong to a professional organization or receive a benefit conditional on you not having a criminal record, a DJ&S may operate the same as a conviction. For instance, the Office of Attorney Regulation considers a DJ&S the same as a conviction when deciding discipline cases for attorneys. Before accepting a DJ&S, you should confirm what affect in may have on your job, your school, your housing, etc.
A "Temporary" Conviction
During the time that you are under a DJ&S, you are treated by the law as though you have been convicted of the offense. So, for example, in the state of Colorado, it is a felony to possess a firearm if you are a convicted felon. If you are serving a DJ&S, you too are prohibited in Colorado from possessing a firearm. Other rights may be similarly affected.
Learn the Difference Between A DJ&S and Probation
A DJ&S seems a lot like probation. A probation officer is normally the one who supervises a person on a DJ&S. But there is a major difference, at the end of a DJ&S, if you successfully completed it, your case is dismissed and you can, in some cases, have the file sealed. None of that happens at the end of probation.
Learn the Difference Between A DJ&S and Diversion
A DJ&S is not diversion. Diversion is a program run by the DA's office whereby in exchange for Useful Public Service (UPS) or some other condition, the DA's office agrees to drop charges. A DJ&S is a judicially enforced contract between the prosecutor's office and the Defendant that in exchange for a guilty plea and fulfillment of certain conditions, the case may ultimately be dismissed.
Understand You Give Up the Right to a Trial When You Accept A DJ&S
If you agree to a DJ&S, you will never go to trial on the charges pending. You never make the DA prove his or her charges beyond a reasonable doubt to a judge or jury. Part of the agreement is that you are admitting the charge. If you are accused of violating the DJ&S, you will be entitled to a hearing to have a judge determine if you violated the terms of the DJ&S, not if you committed the charged crime.
Your Testimony is Affected by a DJ&S.
In the State of Colorado, under certain circumstances, people can be impeached at trial with prior convictions. That is that their testimony could be attacked for credibility because they have been convicted of a certain crime. While actively serving a DJ&S, your testimony can be likewise attacked.
You Can Still Serve Jail Time on a DJ&S
Just because you ultimately may have your case dismissed, does not mean that a condition of the DJ&S might not include Jail or Work Release or some other form of confinement. If this is a concern of yours, address it before you enter into a DJ&S.
Any Violation of the DJ&S Could Result in a Conviction
There are a whole host of ways to violate a DJ&S: failing to do what the agreement calls for, violating conditions laid out by your Probation Officer (P.O.), or any new law violations. For example, if a woman without a criminal history takes a two year DJ&S to 3rd Degree Assault charges in a Domestic Violence (DV) case, and 18 months later picks up a simple speeding ticket, the DA or PO will have the opportunity to ask that the DJ&S be revoked, thereby giving the woman a lifetime DV conviction.
If you successfully complete the DJ&S, the Case is Dismissed With Prejudice...
The power of the DJ&S is that it provides the accused with an out: do these things successfully and your guilty plea may be withdrawn and the case is dismissed. The case is dismissed with prejudice. When something is done with prejudice in court, that means that it is final and the case will not be revisited.
If You Violate the DJ&S, It's the Same as Walking In and Pleading Open to the Charge.
If a Judge determines that you have violated a condition of your DJ&S, he or she will sentence you to any lawful sentence under the Colorado Revised Statutes without any conditions. The exception to this is that the DA might be willing to stipulate to a plea agreement if you waive your right to a hearing.
If You Accused of Violating the DJ&S, You Still Have Due Process Rights (Including a Lawyer)
Just because you no longer have a right to a trial on the initial charges doesn't mean that you have no Due Process rights - you most certainly do. Neither a DA nor PO can revoke your DJ&S unilaterally, they still must prove that you did in fact violate your DJ&S. It is the government's burden to prove either that a violation occurred (more likely than not) or that a new crime was committed (beyond a reasonable doubt). You have the right to contest the charges and should seek the help of a lawyer to find out how.
Think hard before you accept a DJ&S, Because They Are Not Always Easy to Complete.
While it might in principle seem like the best solution (and perhaps in your case it is), you should not enter into a DJ&S without some serious thought. People frequently fail to successfully complete their DJ&S's. There are many good reasons to accept a DJ&S, but keep in mind that there are many reasons not to accept them as well -consulting with an attorney will help you make the best choice.
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