Pleas in Abeyance under CJA 4-704
This page is limited to pleas in abeyance accepted by a clerk of court under Rule 4-704. Even if a defendant does not qualify for a pleas in abeyance accepted by a clerk of court, s/he might still qualify for a diversion, negotiated plea or even a plea in abeyance accepted by the judge.
Talk to an attorney
You are not required to hire an attorney, but pleas in abeyance can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. One way to talk to an attorney is to visit a free legal clinic. Clinics provide general legal information and give brief legal advice. You might also hire an attorney for just part of your case or to do one particular thing, rather than represent you for the whole case. For more information, see our webpage on Finding Legal Help.
About pleas in abeyance
Some courts allow the clerk to accept a "plea in abeyance" for some offenses. A plea in abeyance means that:
- you plead "guilty" or "no contest" to the charges;
- you have that plea held in abeyance for up to one year;
- you complete the conditions of a plea in abeyance agreement; and
- you have the charges dismissed after the abeyance period, so that
- there is no conviction on your record.
The charge itself must qualify. To see whether the charge qualifies, go to the Uniform Fine/Bail Schedule. In the column titled "Violation Code," find the section of the code you are charged with violating. This should be on the citation given to you by the law enforcement officer. Follow across the table to the column titled "Man Appr."
- If the entry for the offense is "Y," it means that you must appear personally before the judge, and the offense does not qualify for a plea in abeyance accepted by the clerk.
- If the entry for the offense is "N," it means that you do not have to appear personally before the judge, and the offense does qualify for a plea in abeyance accepted by the clerk.
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. If you cannot afford to pay for the witnesses, the prosecutor would pay those costs.
- 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. If you were convicted at a trial, you would have the right to appeal. 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.
Once you enter into a plea in abeyance agreement and the court accepts your plea, you cannot withdraw it unless you file a written motion within 30 days after pleading guilty or no contest and show that the plea was not made knowingly and voluntarily.
If you do not complete the conditions, the court will order you to show cause why the court should not find that the terms of the agreement have been violated and why the agreement should not be terminated. If the court finds that you have failed to substantially comply with any condition, it may terminate the agreement, enter judgment of conviction and impose sentence for the crimes.
Effect of a plea in abeyance
During the time that the court holds you 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. However, 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 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 .