By Dustin Lujan
There are significant collateral consequences to a criminal conviction. These can include the loss of future employment opportunities, limits on opportunities for higher education or professional licensing, loss of certain federal benefits, or even constitutional rights such as the right to possess a firearm. And depending on one’s immigration status, a wide range of potential consequences loom for immigrants such as deportation to reentry prevention and even longer delays for naturalization. These are just a handful of examples that demonstrate the value and importance of having a criminal record clear of any convictions.
Consequently, it is important that an individual accused of a crime is fully apprised of the consequences of pleading guilty to even certain misdemeanors which can carry with them consequences as described above. For this reason, there are statutory mechanisms at the disposal of a properly advised defendant to avoid a conviction despite a viable defense present in the case. These are called deferrals.
A deferral or “deferred prosecution” will allow a defendant to get his/her case dismissed after a probationary period is completed. Often this period can be as little as 6 to 12 months and maybe even completed while on unsupervised probation. This is a good option, especially for individuals who are first-time offenders and have made a bad mistake. Especially those who do not want this one set of bad choices to cloud a long history of law-abiding behavior. They also do not want the collateral consequences of this one set of bad decisions to complicate or limit their life opportunities in the long term.
Thus, a properly advised defendant will have counsel who understands these statutory tools and is experienced in negotiating on behalf of defendants in similar circumstances to achieve outcomes that preserve these opportunities and rights for the accused. In short, Wyoming’s statutes provide for three types of deferrals: the first is a general deferral that can only be used once in a lifetime and the consent of the prosecutor must be obtained by the defense. This deferral is under Wyoming Statute 7-13-301 and covers a broad range of crimes, including some lesser serious felonies. It is important to note, however, that if a defendant has received any similar statutory deferral in another state, that defendant is precluded from this particular deferral. This deferral is also not available for those who have a prior felony conviction. And it cannot be used to defer a DUI if the defendant is a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder. Because this deferral has a statutory provision that requires the prosecution's accent, it is critical that an effort be made to effectively negotiate this deferral into any plea agreement. This deferral will result in a dismissal without an adjudication of guilt and is not a conviction for any purpose. A defendant who successfully completes the probationary period is in the same position as a defendant whose case was dismissed for other reasons, or a defendant acquitted at trial.
Deferred dispositions and their corresponding dismissals are often unhelpful for the purposes of avoiding immigration consequences, especially if a guilty plea is entered. It is important to understand that a deferral pursuant to Wyoming Statute 7-13-301 does not require the defendant to enter a guilty plea. Thus, because the defendant can achieve a dismissal without entering a guilty plea, serious collateral immigration consequences can be avoided that would otherwise exist had the individual been convicted of that crime or even plead guilty or no contest to the crime despite it later being dismissed through deferred prosecution.
If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, call us today for a consultation!