In some cases, a plea in abeyance may provide a way for a defendant to have charges dismissed, while avoiding the risks and costs involved in taking a case to trial. We have achieved dismissals for clients with a plea in abeyance in a variety serious felony and misdemeanor cases. Contact us today for an initial consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney practicing in Davis County.
Utah Plea in Abeyance Process
In order to have a plea held in abeyance by the court, an agreement must be reached between the defense and the prosecution. Both sides must agree on the conditions of the abeyance agreement as well as the duration of the agreement. Negotiations to reach an agreement to hold a plea in abeyance are conducted between the defense and the prosecution. A variety of issues can be raised during the negotiations process, including the factual strength or weakness of the case, legal issues that may arise, the defendant’s prior criminal record (or lack thereof), as well as remedial steps a defendant may have taken subsequent to the commission of the alleged offense.
When a plea is held in abeyance in a Utah criminal case, it is not considered to be a conviction. However, during the “abeyance” period, the case is still considered to be an open and pending criminal case. Upon completion of all terms of the plea in abeyance agreement, the case can be dismissed.
Some courts will automatically review a case at the end of the abeyance period and dismiss the charges if all terms of the abeyance agreement have been met. But in many courts, the dismissal does not happen automatically. Instead, the defendant must file a formal motion with the court asking to have the case dismissed.
Benefits of a Plea in Abeyance
One of the most important benefits of a plea in abeyance is the dismissal of charges. But just dismissing the case does not mean that your record is completely “clean.” Even after a dismissal, police records remain public, court records will continue to show the nature of the charges that were filed and any plea that was entered, and the charges (showing as dismissed) can continue to appear on a criminal background check.
Completely clearing your record requires additional steps to obtain an expungement of your criminal record. Although it will not show as a conviction, your record will still indicate the arrest and the fact that a plea in abeyance agreement was entered into. In cases involving a conviction, the waiting period required before you can apply for an expungement will typically range between three and ten years. But once a plea in abeyance case is dismissed, you will typically be eligible for an expungement after only 30 days.
Consequences of Non-Compliance
If a person fails to follow through with the terms of the plea in abeyance agreement, then an order to show cause can be held by the court. If the defendant is found to have violated the terms of the agreement, then the court can enter the plea as a criminal conviction as if there had been an ordinary guilty plea or a conviction at trial. If the conviction is entered by the court, then the judge may impose a sentence up to and including the maximum fines and/or jail or prison time.