Deferred DUI Judgments
Colorado appellate courts recently set precedent on deferred DUI judgments. The Colorado Court of Appeals 5th Division decided in In re Harte that DUI charges cannot be erased from criminal records even when a defendant completed a deferred judgment program successfully.
The Colorado Court of Appeals agreed 2-1 that Ms. Harte, the petitioner, was convicted of DUI even though she successfully completed a 12-month deferred judgment program. Therefore, she cannot have the charge erased from her record, according to the ruling. No word yet whether there will be a petition of cert to the Colorado Supreme Court.
This case is an unfortunate example of why a DUI defendant should seek advice from a DUI attorney in Colorado before agreeing to a deferred judgment program.
What is a Deferred Judgment?
Deferred judgment is when a defendant agrees to a guilty charge, but judgment and sentencing is delayed on the grounds that the defendant completes certain requirements, such as alcohol classes and public service. If the deferment is completed successfully, a judge dismisses the case.
When the petitioner in this case pleaded no contest to a DUI charge she agreed to a 12-month deferred judgment and sentence. After she completed the deferred judgment in January 2011, the trial court in Routt County dismissed her case.
Petitioning Sealed Records in Appellate Court
You would think that this case was over and the charges off of her criminal record, but not so. When Ms. Harte petitioned trail courts to have her arrest and criminal records sealed, the court denied her petition without a hearing.
The petitioner appealed the decision in state appellate court, hoping to have the decision reversed. Last week, however, appellate judges set precedent by ruling against sealing her DUI arrest from the public.
Why Deny the Petition?
The court said that entry of a guilty plea, even in cases that involve deferred judgment, constitutes a conviction. And while most dismissed charges can be erased from a person’s criminal record, there are exceptions to the rule.
DUI offenses happen to be one of them.
When you are convicted of alcohol or drug-related driving offenses, the court cannot seal your criminal record in Colorado. The same goes for sex-related offenses.
Although this defendant maintains she was not convicted because she completed a deferred judgment program and her case was dismissed, the courts disagreed and said that deferred judgment did constitute a guilty plea in her DUI case. Therefore, her DUI record cannot be sealed according to Colorado law.
Speak to a Lawyer Before Accepting Deferred Judgment!
With this precedent, a deferred judgment in a DUI case means the charges cannot be erased from your criminal record.
That doesn’t mean all deferred judgment cases are bad. In some cases, deferred judgment on a DUI case is the most viable option for someone facing charges of drunk driving. It negates the risk at trial, may prevent further sanctions, and gives complete control to the accused over the outcome of the case.
However, this appellate decision proves that deferred judgment is not always best for an individual defendant. If you are innocent, and the evidence supports your innocence, it may be unwise to defer judgment when dismissal cannot erase charges from appearing on your record.
It’s important to speak with a DUI attorney in Colorado before you accept any type of plea agreement or deferred judgment program. While deferred judgment may seem like an easy way to make a DUI conviction “go away,” there are consequences good and bad to agreeing to one.
If you have been arrested in Denver for a DUI, set up a free consultation to discuss your DUI case. The attorneys at Tiftickjian Law Firm can guide you to deciding whether or not deferred judgment in your Denver DUI case is right for you.