If you are facing legal problems in connection with criminal charges for the first time in your life, you might be feeling anxious, stressed and somewhat afraid. These are all normal reactions to being arrested and charged with a crime. You’ll be glad to know that in South Dakota (and many other states) there are defense options that might be available to you, which would not be accessible to someone with a prior criminal record. For example, on a first offense, you might qualify for deferred adjudication.
In several other states, this process in the criminal justice system is known as ”probation before judgment.” Especially if you are facing charges for a minor crime, you might be eligible for deferred adjudication, which basically means that the judge overseeing your case can order you to serve probation without the penalty of incarceration or a criminal record. It is also sometimes referred to as ”suspended imposition.”
Deferred entry of judgment is a type of plea agreement
In exchange for deferred adjudication as a first offender in South Dakota, you can expect to be required to enter a plea of guilt or no contest. After entering such a plea, the court would order you to complete probation or community service, or enter a diversion program. You would be required to meet the court’s requirements within a certain amount of time.
If you fulfill the requirements in the time allotted to you to do so, the court can either seal your records through expungement or dismiss your case altogether. Either way, you will not have a criminal conviction on your record. The court offers this type of agreement to first offenders in the hope that they will rehabilitate themselves and avoid getting into trouble with the law again
You do not have to acknowledge your arrest after deferred adjudication
If you were to complete a deferred adjudication program, you need not ever mention your arrest or indictment again, unless by choice. At a job interview, you do not have to give an affirmative answer if asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime. Not mentioning it is not considered perjury because the court offered to wipe the slate clean in exchange for the completion of specified requirements.
Under deferred adjudication, you do not have a criminal record. On paper, it is as if you were never arrested or charged with a crime. You may also retain your voting privileges, even if the crime for which you pled guilty would have included a jail sentence or prohibited you from voting.
Exceptions to the rule
In certain circumstances, the conditions mentioned in the previous section would not hold true, such as if you were convicted of certain types of crime and were seeking employment where you would be working with juveniles. If you have been arrested for a crime in South Dakota, it is a good idea to thoroughly explore all available defense options, including deferred adjudication, if it is your first offense.