Unmasking the Legal Phantom called Plea of Abeyance
October isn’t just about ghosts and ghouls; it can also be about unmasking the sometimes-ghoulish complexities of the legal world. One such specter is the plea of abeyance, a legal phantom that’s often misunderstood. Let’s shed some light on this spooky legal situation.
Facing the Fear: The Meaning of Abeyance
To understand what a plea of abeyance means, you first need to grasp the “abeyance” meaning. In legal terms, abeyance refers to a situation when action is temporarily suspended or set aside. When applied to a plea, it acquires a unique shape.
The Silhouette of a Plea: Plea Meaning in Legal Terms
In the legal realm, a plea is your response to a criminal charge. It’s an admission of guilt, declaration of innocence, or assertion of no contest. When ‘abeyance’ and ‘plea’ mingle, they form a silhouette of hope in the dark corridors of criminal law.
The Hybrid of Hope: Plea of Abeyance
The plea of abeyance is a unique agreement between you and the court. Essentially, you agree to meet certain conditions in exchange for the court setting aside your guilty plea for a time. If you meet the conditions, your charge can be reduced or dismissed.
Certain courts permit the acceptance of what’s known as a “plea in abeyance” for specific offenses. When you enter a plea in abeyance, the following occurs:
- You officially enter a “guilty” or “no contest” plea for the charges against you;
- Your plea is temporarily set aside, or held in abeyance, for a period that can last up to a year;
- You fulfill the obligations laid out in the plea in abeyance agreement; and
- After the abeyance period concludes, your charges are dismissed, leaving no conviction on your record.
However, there are restrictions on what charges can qualify for a plea in abeyance. A court will not consider a plea in abeyance if:
- The case involves a sexual crime against a victim under 14 years of age,
- The case involves a charge for driving under the influence,
- Either the prosecutor or the defendant does not consent to the plea.
Utah Code 77-2a-3
Contact the court in which the charges are filed for any forms and to see whether you are eligible for a plea in abeyance.
If you enter into a plea in abeyance agreement, it means you are waiving nearly all of the rights that you have as a criminal defendant. These rights include:
- Right to counsel: You have the right to be represented by an attorney, and, if the crimes are misdemeanors, an attorney will be appointed at no cost to you if you cannot afford one.
- Right to jury trial: You have the right to a speedy and public trial. If the crimes are misdemeanors you have the right to a trial by an impartial jury. If the trial is before a jury, the jury’s verdict must be unanimous.
- Right to confront and cross-examination witnesses: You have the right to observe the witnesses who testify against you at trial, and you or your attorney have the right to cross-examine the witnesses who testify against you.
- Right to compel witnesses: You have the right to call witnesses, and you have the right to obtain subpoenas requiring those witnesses to appear and testify. The prosecutor would pay those costs if you cannot afford to pay for the witnesses.
- Right to testify and privilege against self-incrimination: You have the right to testify on your own behalf. If you choose not to testify, no one can make you testify. If you do not to testify, the jury would be told that they cannot hold your refusal against you.
- Presumption of innocence: You are presumed innocent until the prosecutor proves each element of the crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. If you choose to fight the charges, You need only plead “not guilty,” and the case will be set for a trial.
- Appeal: You would have the right to appeal if you were convicted at a trial. If you could not afford the costs of an appeal, the prosecutor would pay those costs.
- Sentencing: You have the right to be sentenced not less than 2 nor more than 45 days after the verdict or entry of a guilty or no contest plea.
As soon as you agree to a plea in abeyance and the court endorses your plea, retracting it becomes a complex process. To withdraw, you must submit a written motion within 30 days of entering your guilty or no contest plea, demonstrating that the plea wasn’t made with full awareness or voluntarily.
By entering a plea in abeyance, you’ll be on probation while you fulfill the conditions set. Either the court or a probation agency, as decided by a judge, will supervise your probation. If you fail to meet these conditions, the court will compel you to explain why it should not conclude that you’ve violated the agreement’s terms and why the agreement should not be ended. Should the court determine that you’ve not substantially adhered to any conditions, it holds the right to terminate the agreement, establish a conviction record, and impose a sentence for the crimes.
Effect of a Plea in Abeyance
During the time that the court holds your plea in abeyance, the court will not enter a judgment of conviction against you. The charges will be dismissed when you have completed the conditions of the agreement. In some courts, you must file a Motion to Dismiss once you have completed all the requirements or the court will not dismiss the case. You can use the forms found on the Motions web page.
Even when the case is dismissed, there are limits:
- Although the charges are ultimately dismissed, the records still exist. To have the records sealed you will have to have them expunged. For more information and forms, see our page on Expunging Adult Criminal Records . To expunge records of an offense filed in juvenile court see our page on Expunging Juvenile Records.
- Some offenses disqualify a person from holding a commercial driver’s license (CDL), even if the plea of guilty of no contest is held in abeyance and the charges are ultimately dismissed. Utah Code Section 53-3-414 .
Additionally, if you received a reduction of the level of the offense under a plea in abeyance then you cannot obtain a 402 reduction.
The Maze of Conditions: Navigating the Plea in Abeyance
The conditions of a plea in abeyance typically include community service, fines, or completion of therapeutic programs. A skilled defense attorney in Utah can help you navigate these conditions and ensure you fulfill your part of the agreement.
Your Defense Begins Here
Do you find yourself in a legal maze this October? Contact Wasatch Defense Lawyers today for a Free Legal Consultation. Let’s unmask these spooky legal situations together.
The Payoff: Dismissal or Reduction of Charges
Once you complete the conditions, the court will dismiss or reduce your charges. This can be a lifeline, preserving your record and potentially saving you from harsher penalties.
Turning Legal Fears into Legal Victories
Facing a legal charge can feel like walking through a haunted house. But with Wasatch Defense Lawyers, you’re not alone. We’re here to shed light on complex legal situations like the plea of abeyance.
Don’t let legal fears haunt your October. Reach out to Wasatch Defense Lawyers for a free legal consultation. We’re ready to stand by you and turn legal fears into legal victories. Remember, facing a criminal charge alone is the only thing scarier than a ghost. We’re here to help.
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