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  • David A. Cmelik Law PLC

Deferred Judgments: what they are not

shredding document

Under Iowa’s deferred judgment statute, the Court may grant to Defendant a deferred judgment at the time of disposition, or, sentencing, instead of entering a conviction. It contemplates an expungement before sentencing.

Iowa Code § 907.1 defines a deferred judgment as follows:

“‘Deferred judgment’ means a sentencing option whereby both the adjudication of guilt and the imposition of a sentence are deferred by the court and whereby the court assesses a civil penalty as provided in section 907.14 upon the entry of the deferred judgment. The court retains the power to pronounce judgment and impose sentence subject to the defendant’s compliance with conditions set by the court as a requirement of the deferred judgment.”

Deferred judgment grantees are placed on probation. Probation is supervision by the Department of Correctional Services or, essentially, on one’s honor. For example, probation can be informal, or, unsupervised, probation. It can be “self-supervised,” requiring the payment of a supervision fee to the Department of Correctional Services and a probation-end background and compliance check. It could also be supervised, depending on how serious the offense is, and require the assignment of a probation officer to meet regularly and oversee the rehabilitation of the Defendant.

Some offenses, like forcible felonies, and repeat drunk driving offenses, for example, are not “deferred eligible” offenses—meaning that you can’t even ask the judge to defer judgment in those and other specifically delineated exclusions from statutory eligibility.

If a deferred judgment grantee and probationer successfully completes the terms and conditions of probation set forth in the Court’s order and a written list of obligations set out by a probation officer, if applicable, the Court will expunge the public record of the prosecution and order sealed the public record of the prosecution.

Why do I emphasize the word, “public” in the above sentence? Because a deferred judgment is not a completely sealed record in the truest sense of the word. Only the Court’s public docket sheet will be sealed. The Court cannot order private sector background check companies and others in the private sector to “forget” a deferred judgment grantee was arrested. It also remains in official law enforcement records at the Department of Criminal Investigation in Des Moines.

Even unsophisticated, private background check companies have a way of mining public arrest data from police blotters and newspapers of record. They store this information indefinitely in the hope that someone will pay them $75 for that data in the future. If the background check company shows a record of arrest but no public disposition, reviewers will assume a defendant received an expungement from the court and they will make a note of it. Moreover, the government court record of the prosecution is not sealed unless and until the period of probation has expired and the defendant has completed all tasks assigned. It could be “out there” for years depending on how long a defendant must be on probation.

Therefore, while a deferred judgment diminishes the government record of a prosecution, it doesn’t completely erase it.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a crime in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, or other Iowa community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC for a free initial consultation. However, remember that a blog is not legal advice and that sending unsolicited information to a lawyer over the Internet does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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