There are some cases that can be subject to a resolution process called Deferred Entry of Judgment. This is commonly referred to as DEJ. The process involves the Defendant pleading guilty to the charge(s), continuing sentencing, undergoing some type of education, and staying out of trouble for a specified time. Upon completion of the education and passage of required time, the Defendant can withdraw his plea, enter a not guilty plea, and the case will be dismissed. Additional requirements can be added to the process depending on the circumstances. For example, the Defendant can be required to provide a DNA sample, undergo drug testing, perform community service and anything else that might be appropriate under the facts and circumstances of the case.
DEJ is of great benefit to the Defendant. While it requires a guilty plea there isn’t any conviction because sentencing has not occurred. As long as the sentencing is postponed and does not take place there isn’t any conviction and the guilty plea does not stand as long as the DEJ is finished. However, the major down side to DEJ is the fact that if the Defendant does not complete the ordered tasks, the court will proceed to sentencing and the conviction is entered. No further proof requirement is needed since the guilty plea has already been entered and the court can simply proceed to sentencing.
In California a Defendant is entitled to a dismissal following successful completion of probation or earlier if discharged from probation before the end of the probationary period. (Penal Code Section 1203.4) However, a dismissal under the provisions of PC 1203.4 does not expunge the conviction from the record. Expungement commonly means: destroy, wipe out, strike from the record or erase the conviction completely from any record. In California there isn’t any expungement available to a Defendant. Once a Defendant has been convicted the conviction is not going to be erased from the public record.
The available relief to a Defendant in a criminal case following a conviction is afforded under PC1203.4. It WILL do the following:
1: Set aside the verdict or plea;
As almost everyone on planet earth knows, Dr. Conrad Murray was convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson. On November 29, 2011, Dr. Murray was sentenced to the maximum term of four years in State Prison. How did the judge determine that four years was the appropriate sentence?
The cynical among us might just say that because the deceased was the most famous pop star in the world that the judge would have been crazy to give Dr. Murray anything less than the maximum. Those of that opinion could easily conclude the public expected the maximum and therefore why would the judge do something that would enrage the public and possibly cost him his job in the next election? Those cynical enough to believe that would think the discussion would end right there. But, what did the judge have to do under the law in order to justify the maximum sentence? The answer can be found in the Rules of Court.
The Rules of Court set forth the criteria affecting probation (Rule 4.414). Dr. Murray was technically eligible for probation, no matter how unlikely that might have been as a practical matter. There are two sub-sets to consider: facts that relate to the crime and facts that relate to the defendant.