Criminal Defense: Deferred Prosecution

Deferred prosecution is a program that allows a person suffering from an alcohol problem (alcoholism), a drug problem (addiction), or a mental health problem to seek permission of the court to go through an intensive treatment program in lieu of being prosecuted for misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. Successful completion of the treatment program, and continued lawful conduct, will result in dismissal of the charge and may avoid a suspension of driver’s license by the Department of Licensing.

The law allows a defendant to request the court for deferral or postponement of their case for five years while he or she seeks treatment for their disease. If the request is granted, the advantages are clear: defendants retain their license, do not go to jail, keep the DUI off their record for most purposes, are not required to pay for high risk insurance, avoid being fined, and, except for cases of blood or breath refusal, avoid administrative license suspensions. Most importantly, they are given an opportunity to sober up and regain control of their lives.

In order to qualify for deferred prosecution, the defendant must obtain an evaluation from a state approved treatment agency. The agency will conduct an assessment and if it concludes that the criminal conduct for which deferred prosecution is sought occurred as a result of alcoholism, drug addiction or mental health problems, and that the defendant is amenable to treatment, — meaning they are willing to be treated — the person is eligible for deferred prosecution as long as they have never been granted one before.

In DUI cases, of course, the most frequent reason a deferred prosecution is sought is because of a drinking problem, and the required two-year treatment program is quite rigorous and occurs in three phases. The first phase is typically three or four nights a week for the first two or three months (seventy -two hours of treatment in the first 90 days) or can involve an inpatient program. Phase two entails weekly counseling for six months. Phase three requires counseling once a month for the balance of the two-year program. In addition, two Alcoholics Anonymous or other self-help meetings per week are required for the full two years at a minimum. Usually the defendant is also placed on supervised probation, which means that he or she may be required to meet on a regular basis with a probation officer and to pay for those services. And, an ignition interlock device (IID) will be required for at least one year if the deferred prosecution is based on alcoholism.

Three years after the completion of the treatment program, the charge is dismissed. A person is only entitled to one deferred prosecution in a lifetime, so a person should be totally committed to recovery before entering into this.

A deferred prosecution counts as a prior offense if the person is convicted of a subsequent DUI within seven years of the DUI for which deferred prosecution was sought, and will be used to substantially enhance the mandatory minimum penalties to be imposed on the subsequent DUI.