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What is a Deferred Judgment  in a first time Cedar Rapids drunk driving prosecution?

by David A. Cmelik Law PLC

A deferred judgment on a first time drunk driving offense is possible if a Defendant has pled guilty or been found guilty (with the latter not as likely) if (1) the Defendant consented to a bodily specimen as requested by the arresting officer and that test result did not reveal a blood alcohol concentration of .15 g or more regardless of margin of error.


A deferred judgment is neither an outright dismissal nor an outright conviction. In Iowa, a defendant typically pleads guilty to a deferred-eligible criminal offense and then requests that the judge grant a request to defer, or, delay judgment unless and until the Defendant unsuccessfully discharges probation. In the event that the Defendant successfully discharges probation, the Defendant will never be convicted, the record of the prosecution will be expunged, and the public court file will be sealed.


While no fines apply in a deferred judgment (because under Iowa law a deferred judgment doesn’t immediately result in adjudication nor conviction) a civil penalty typically in the range of allowable fines will apply. While court costs will apply and are typically taxed to the Defendant, a thirty-five percent surcharge always assessed to fines will not apply because the civil penalty is not a fine. No jail is imposed because there is no conviction. However, a defendant is typically placed on probation for a year to complete substantive and financial obligations set forth in the Court's deferred judgment order, if granted.


First, don't assume you will get one even if qualified. It's a little bit perilous to make that assumption because the judge is the final arbiter on whether it can happen. While a widely respected former prosecutor once told me (in the presence of a judge) that everyone is born with at least one deferred judgment, that's really not the way the law is written. The judge has the power to deny it. And certain factual circumstances and court room conduct can result in such denial. A judge once told me "your client almost talked himself/herself out of the deferred judgment." I had some of those same worries at the time of the sentencing when the defendant alluded that none of what happened was their fault.


Also, if you have already received a deferred judgment, don't assume you will get another one. A deferred judgment on a first-offense OWI can be used to classify a subsequent OWI as a second offense, thereby disqualifying the defendant for a second deferred judgment. Only first time OWI offenders can qualify to request a deferred judgment and then only if they tested and tested below .15 g ETOH BrAC/BAC/UAC.


In the final analysis, deferred judgments are a bit disappointing in the age of the Internet. It isn't a completely sealed record. The arrest cannot be scrubbed from local newspapers, online or in print, and the court has no authority to direct such private sector erasure. Therefore, it's out there somewhere. The only thing that a deferred judgment can seal is the public court file and docket sheet. However, for some a deferred judgment is a way to diminish the publication of an OWI incident and avoid jail time.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for OWI in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, or other Iowa community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC, for an initial consultation today. However, remember that a blog is not legal advice and that no attorney-client relationship is established by sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet.

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Tabula Rasa the idea that a deferred judgment in a first-time OWI prosecution in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is a blank slate is a bit of a myth. The Court cannot erase publication of a defendant's arrest in police blotters of the local newspaper and with the advent of the internet and background search companies, this information is readily available. However, some believe the deferred judgment is the best way to diminish the publication of the criminal prosecution for OWI and other deferred-eligible offenses. If you or a loved one has been arrested for OWI in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, or other Iowa community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at 319-389-1889.

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