Every state has its own set of sentencing alternatives that may be offered to a defendant instead of receiving a traditional jail sentence. One alternative that may be offered in Rhode Island is a deferred sentence.
This type sentencing can prevent a defendant from not only facing a potentially harsh punishment, but any punishment at all.
What is a deferred sentence?
A deferred sentence is a judicial order that is similar to a probation sentence, except that it allows the imposition of the sentence to be postponed (i.e. deferred). The Court may impose the deferred sentence for up to five (5) years.
While there are no guarantees, first-time offenders are often in a best position to request a deferred sentence. However, there are also instances that would allow for someone with prior offenses to be a candidate for deferred sentencing.
Ultimately, it will depend upon the judge, your attorney, and the circumstances of your case. If a defendant is given a deferred sentence by the Court, a trial will be avoided and instead the defendant will enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to the crime(s).
What happens with a deferred sentence and deferral agreement
Once the plea is entered, the defendant and the Court enter into a written deferral agreement which will provide the terms that the defendant must comply with during the deferral period.
The terms may include, but are not limited to drug and alcohol treatment; drug testing; community service; counseling; payment of court costs, fines, and fees; payment of restitution; keeping away from known criminals, or victims of the crime; adherence to the law; and more.
There are, however, circumstances where a defendant may lose his or her deferred sentence. If the Court determines that the defendant violated any of the terms or conditions set forth in the deferred sentence agreement, it may impose a sanction or impose a sentence on the underlying case. I
f the violation is based on a new arrest, the defendant will face a potential punishment on the deferred case as well as on the new charge(s).
Deferred sentence violations
A defendant in violation of a deferred sentence agreement is exposed to the maximum punishment allowable for the crime(s) that he or she admitted and that were the subject of the deferral agreement.
The specific sentence the defendant will face will be determined by the Court, after hearing recommendations from the defendant’s counsel and the prosecution. This means that while on a deferred sentence it is imperative to follow the terms and conditions and so long as a defendant complies with the requirements specified in the deferral agreement, the defendant will not need to serve any sentence or incur a criminal conviction.
Will a deferred sentence show?
In addition to avoiding jail time and a criminal conviction, a defendant may also be eligible to have the record expunged. When the record is expunged, it will leave no trace of the crime on the defendant’s criminal record. Those who successfully petition the Court for expungement will generally be permitted to state that they have never been convicted of a crime in any application for employment, license, or other civil right or privilege.
For a defendant to be eligible for expungement, he or she must have complied with all the terms and conditions of the deferred sentence agreement. This can also include, but is not limited to, the payment for all fines, fees, costs, assessments and restitution to victims of crimes.
The defendant also must not have any other pending criminal charges against him or been previously convicted of a crime of violence. Lastly, the defendant must have had established good moral character during the deferred sentence agreement. If all these requirements are met, and absent any exceptions, the record may be expunged.
Deferred sentences are a win-win
Deferred sentences often serve as a win-win for both the prosecution and the defense. Instead of clogging up the courts and wasting time and resources, deferred sentencing will allow for a swift and just resolution of the case.
Prosecutors can rest assured that sentencing will occur in the event that the defendant breaks the terms of his agreement. Similarly, the defendant is happy with no jail and the possibilities of both no criminal conviction and having the matter expunged in the future.
In most cases, if a defendant has no criminal history, or a minor history, and agrees to plead guilty or nolo contendere to the charges, he or she may be eligible for deferred sentencing.
A criminal defense attorney who understands this process can also help you to determine whether are a good candidate for this favorable criminal disposition.
If you or someone you know is hoping for deferred sentence, or you have questions on how to resolve a pending criminal case, contact the Rhode Island Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III, Inc. today at (401) 351-5100 for a free consultation. Let us help you!