What is a “deferred Judgment”?

It is a sentencing option in certain limited cases, under Iowa Law, that allows a judge to withhold finding a defendant guilty. The judge may enter a deferred judgment and place you on probation for a specified period of time. The conditions on your probation can be fixed by the court and the probation officer. The conditions may vary based on the criminal charge and the sentencing judge.

One condition will always be that you not have any new law violations, other than simple traffic offenses, during the period of probation. If you violate your probation, the court may revoke your deferred judgment. This means you would be brought back to court and, if the deferred is revoked, you would then be sentenced by the court.

If you successfully complete your probation, the charge will be dismissed and the record of the case will be expunged.

May I request a deferred judgment?

It depends on the charge filed against you. Let’s say you are charged with a 2nd offense drunk driving, you may not receive a deferred on conviction or plea of guilty. Iowa law does not allow it. Ask me if you may receive a deferred.

Things to consider.

Iowa law allows a person to receive two deferred judgments in their lifetime. Getting one is an accomplishment. Getting a second is amazing.

You need to think about the consequences of “burning” up a deferred on, for example, a simple misdemeanor charge. If later on you get charged with an OWI, you may want to use a deferred judgment and learn that you won’t get it because you already got one in your life.

Just because you received a deferred and successfully completed the probation does not mean that it is wiped off your record forever. Records of the arrest, the charge and the deferred judgment are easily obtained from the Iowa department of Criminal Investigation. Even if your charge/record has been expunged, and you have signed a waiver of confidentiality form, a potential employer or landlord can learn of your record.

Sometimes employers require just such a background check. They may well learn of this conviction. What happens if the employer asks “Have you ever entered a plea of guilty to a criminal charge?” You pled guilty to a 1st Offense OWI (drunk driving) charge and received a deferred. So you did plead guilty? Yes. If you say no and they later obtain records that you did plead guilty, you may well be fired.

Deferred judgment probation may be difficult for you to manage. You can pay a fine and be done, no probation. That may be attractive to you. A deferred probation may require community service work. You may have to pee in a cup for the probation officer to test it for drugs/alcohol. You may not be allowed to enter bars.

If you receive a deferred and you screw it up, pick up a new charge, if your deferred is revoked, the judge may impose a more significant penalty on you than you would have received had you not asked for a deferred because you blew this golden opportunity. Judges and prosecutors don’t like it when folks screw up a deferred.

If your charge is a simple Possession of Alcohol Under Legal Age (PAULA) or a Public Intoxication charge, expungement is available if you go two years without any new criminal charges after the date of the original conviction. You don’t want to burn a deferred for these charges.

My Thoughts

A “Deferred Judgment” is the next best thing to being found not guilty or having the charges dismissed.

To obtain a deferred judgment, you must request that of the court at the time of your sentencing.

If you are granted a deferred judgment, there is no jail sentence nor is their a fine imposed. A civil penalty, however, will be imposed in the same amount as the fine if you had not been given a deferred judgment. You may be placed on probation for a period of time with rules to obey laws, etc.

Most civilians do not understand what a “deferred judgment” means so if you received one and you tell an employer you have never been convicted of a serious charge, they may find out that you pled guilty to an OWI for example, and this may cause a problem, even though you received a deferred judgment.

Whether to grant a deferred judgment or not is entirely up to the judge. Judges have full discretion as to whether they will grant a request for a deferred judgment. If your request is denied, absent an error by the court such as the judge incorrectly determining that you are not eligible, there is nothing you can do if you are denied.