Contributor: Adam Justinger
Have you ever heard someone say they received a deferred imposition of sentence? Have you ever wondered what that meant? Generally, when an individual is charged with a crime, one of their major concerns is whether the charge will stay on the individual’s criminal record. A criminal conviction, or even a criminal charge, can have a lasting impact on an individual’s life. It can affect an individual’s career, education opportunity, ability to enter foreign countries, and civil rights, among other things. Now, I am not saying that a deferred imposition of sentence will completely solve all of these problems, but in many instances, it can be very beneficial.
What Is A Deferred Imposition Of Sentence?
Deferred imposition of sentence is a sentencing tool used by the courts and attorneys to allow convicted individuals an opportunity to not have a criminal conviction on their public record in the long run. Deferred imposition of sentences are governed by Rule 32.1 of the North Dakota Rules of Criminal Procedure and N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32. Prior to March 1, 2019, under Rule 32.1, deferred imposition of sentence was only available for infraction and misdemeanor cases. However, as of March 1, 2019, deferred imposition of sentence is no longer limited to only infractions and misdemeanors under Rule 32.1.
A court may defer imposition of sentence upon application (ex. plea agreement) or by way of its own motion. If an individual’s sentence is deferred, the defendant must be placed on probation during the period of deferment. If an individual successfully completes the probationary period, the sentence can and will be deferred. This means that 61 days after the expiration or termination of probation the defendant’s guilty plea will be withdrawn or set aside, the case will be dismissed, and the file will be sealed from public record. In simpler terms, as long as you do not violate the terms of your probation, your conviction will be sealed and not visible on a public record search.
Now, as I mentioned in the introduction, just because your sentence was deferred, does not mean that it solves all of your problems. Your employment or college application may still require you to disclose that you were convicted of a crime even though the sentence was deferred. Further, deferred imposition of sentence will not prevent your gun rights from being revoked if you are charged with a felony or an A misdemeanor offense involving violence or intimidation. That is because a deferred imposition of sentence is considered a conviction under the possession of weapons statute. Although a deferred imposition of sentence will withdraw your guilty plea, dismiss the case, and seal your conviction, it does have its limitations in certain situations.
Can All Crimes Receive A Deferred Imposition Of Sentence?
The short answer is no. There are a few instances where a deferred imposition of sentence is not permitted. One such example is for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Actual Physical Control (APC) offenses. North Dakota law prohibits DUI/APC offenses from receiving a deferred imposition of sentence. Further, North Dakota law does not allow for certain Gross Sexual Imposition convictions to be deferred unless the individual can prove by clear and convincing evidence they reasonably believed the victim was fifteen years of age or older.
To help understand how a deferred imposition of sentence works, it might be best to look at an example. Tim Beam and Zack Daniels are both 20 years old. Tim and Zach both attend a college party and are consuming alcohol. Law enforcement arrives and cites Tim and Zach with Minor in Consumption (MIC).
Tim decides to not retain an attorney and goes to court. He pleads guilty to the MIC and is sentenced to 11 months of unsupervised probation and is required to pay the court-ordered fines and fees. Deferred imposition of sentence was never offered to Tim. Tim will now have a MIC, a class B Misdemeanor, on his criminal record that will appear on a public record search.
Zack, on the other hand, contacts an attorney right away. Zack, his defense attorney, and the prosecutor negotiate a binding plea agreement. Zack receives a deferred imposition of sentence for the 11 months he is on unsupervised probation and is required to pay the court-ordered fines and fees. After 11 months, Zack did not violate his unsupervised probation. Within 61 days after he successfully completed his term of probation, Zack’s guilty plea will be withdrawn, his MIC will be dismissed, and the conviction on his criminal record will be sealed from public view.
Criminal charges, sentencing, and deferred imposition of sentences can be complex. If you are facing criminal charges, seeking legal representation may be in your best interest. If you have a criminal issue in North Dakota, please do not hesitate to call the Criminal Defense Team at SW&L Attorneys in Fargo at 701-297-2890.
This article is only meant to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice.