Pleas in Abeyance

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.

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.

Not every charge qualifies for a plea in abeyance. A court will not accept a plea in abeyance if:

  • the case involves a sexual offense against a victim under the age of 14
  • the case involves an offense for driving under the influence
  • the prosecutor or the defendant do not agree 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. 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.

When you enter a plea in abeyance, you will be on probation while you complete the conditions of probation. Your probation may be supervised by the court or by a probation agency. A judge will decide if the court or a probation agency will supervise you. If you do not complete the conditions of probation, 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 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 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.