On behalf of Southworth and Stamman, LLC on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.
Deferred Prosecution Agreements have become one of the best tools for both prosecutors and defense attorneys to use in an effort to resolve lower-level criminal cases. For younger defendants, a Deferred Prosecution Agreement can mean a life without the burden of a criminal conviction. How these agreements are drafted, however, can make all the difference in a defendant's success or failure - and whether or not the public derives any benefit from it.
Defendants age 18-25 commit most of the crimes in our society. While a small percentage of these crimes involve violence (e.g. aggravated battery, sexual assault, homicide), most of the crimes involve damage to property, theft, disorderly conduct or driving offenses. In these types of cases, the State can obtain just as much - and often more - public benefit and restitution as a resolution involving probation and/or a jail sentence. While the defendant must proactively get treatment, pay restitution, write letters of apology, engage in community service and commit to no further criminal activity for the duration of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement, the agreement also calls for ultimate dismissal of the criminal charges upon successful completion.
In Juneau County, where I served as District Attorney, we utilized Deferred Prosecution Agreements as part of an established diversion program for young offenders. The advantage of the program was a connection between the young offenders and resource agencies the program coordinator provided. Most counties do not have such a formal program in place; however, the court process - and the end result - are similar. Notably, most Deferred Prosecution Agreements require a defendant to plead guilty or no contest to a charge(s), and then the court withholds submission of the judgment of conviction pending the outcome of the agreement. If the defendant successfully completes the provisions of the agreement, the case is dismissed. If not, the State moves to revoke the agreement, and the defendant is sentenced for the crime(s) for which he or she entered a plea(s).
Deferred Prosecution Agreements, when well-drafted, allow a young offender to overcome the stigma of a criminal conviction while providing the State with a mechanism for holding offenders accountable. When employed properly, these agreements can achieve real justice...for all.