Utah Criminal Defense Options
An abeyance agreement (plea in abeyance) in a Utah criminal case is a negotiated resolution that can provide a way to avoid a conviction, stay out of jail, and ultimately have your case dismissed. As a criminal defense attorney in Utah, Stephen Howard has negotiated abeyance agreements for clients facing prosecution for first-degree felony charges, mid-level felony charges, and a wide variety of misdemeanor charges.
Having a plea held in abeyance is only one strategy to pursue in defending against criminal charges in Utah. An experienced criminal defense attorney can work with you to determine the best strategy for your case. Contact us today to see how the right attorney can help you.
Negotiations in Utah Criminal Cases
Under Utah law, a plea in abeyance requires the agreement of both the prosecutor and the judge. A plea in abeyance may not be possible in every case. Utah’s legislature has prohibited abeyance agreements for certain specific types of crime. Some prosecutorial offices have policies that may make it difficult to obtain an abeyance agreement in their jurisdictions. But having an experienced criminal attorney on your side, an attorney with a track record of negotiating pleas in abeyance in difficult cases, can help to give you the best chance of obtaining the resolution you need.
A prosecutor may consider a variety of factors in deciding whether to offer an abeyance agreement. The level of the offense, the prior record of the defendant, the strength (or weakness) of the evidence supporting the prosecution’s case, and other mitigating or aggravating facts can all contribute to a prosecutor’s decision-making process. How best to present these factors during the negotiation process is something that you should discuss with your defense attorney.
Purposes of an Abeyance Agreement
In the most general terms, an abeyance agreement can be used to avoid the consequences of a more serious conviction that could result if a criminal case were taken to trial. Most often, an abeyance agreement results in a full dismissal of a case following successful completion of the abeyance conditions. Abeyance conditions are generally similar to probation conditions, and can include community service, fines/fees, treatment, testing, supervision, etc. If the terms of the agreement are fulfilled, the case is dismissed by the court.
A less common type of abeyance agreements is one that will result in a conviction, but a conviction that is entered at a lower level than the plea that was originally accepted by the court. For example, a person might enter a plea to a felony charge with an agreement from the prosecutor that the plea would be held in abeyance and not entered as a conviction during the abeyance period, but instead entered only as a misdemeanor conviction at the end of the abeyance period. This type of abeyance agreement allows a person to avoid ever having a felony conviction entered, but gives a prosecutor the ability to hold on to the threat of a felony conviction if the person does not follow through with the agreed-upon conditions. (This type of abeyance agreement is sometimes referred to informally as a reverse 402 reduction agreement.)
Consequences of Failing to Follow Through
Failure to comply with the conditions of the abeyance agreement can result in a conviction being entered by the court and imposition of sentence as determined to be appropriate. The court may impose up to the maximum sentence allowable under statute. Alternatively, the court has discretion to place a defendant on probation with appropriate conditions.
Reasons to Consider an Abeyance Agreement
An abeyance agreement will not be an option in every case. But when a negotiated abeyance agreement is on the table, there are several reasons to give the offer serious consideration.
Control – An abeyance agreement can give a person a significant degree of control over the outcome of a case. Rather than putting the matter in the hands of a jury to decide, the defendant has more control over the final result in the case. If the defendant follows through with the abeyance agreement, the defendant guarantees the outcome that was agreed upon (usually a dismissal).
Risk Management – In some cases, a reduction in the level or number of charges can be negotiated as part of the abeyance agreement. When this can be done, the level of overall risk involved is reduced. Rather than an all-or-nothing outcome in a jury trial, the defendant obtains able to reduce the potential consequences while also retaining the potential benefit of a dismissal on completion of all abeyance requirements.
Expedited Expungement Eligibility – For those interested in keeping a clean criminal record, a dismissal pursuant to an abeyance agreement can significantly reduce the waiting time necessary for expungement eligibility. Whereas even a class B misdemeanor requires a full four-year wait following the completion of probation before expungement eligibility is obtained, a dismissal under an abeyance agreement requires only 30 days. (Note that only eligibility to begin the expungement process is achieved 30 days after dismissal. The full process of expungement through the court system will take longer to complete.)
Finding a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges in Utah, having an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney on your side can be vital to achieving a successful outcome. Contact Stephen Howard now to find out more about how a plea in abeyance may help you.