What Is A Plea In Abeyance in Utah?

Lady justice on the table close-up. In the background, prosecuting attorney and the defendant shaking hands on the terms of the abeyance agreement.

Utah Code Title 77-2a-1 defines a plea in abeyance as “an order by a court, upon motion of the prosecuting attorney and the defendant, accepting a plea of guilty or of no contest from the defendant but not, at that time, entering judgment of conviction against the defendant nor imposing sentence upon the defendant on condition that the defendant comply with specific conditions as set forth in a plea in abeyance agreement.”

Essentially, you plead guilty, but the guilty judgment is null and void after specific conditions are made over the time. First-time offenders are often able to seek a plea in abeyance for their criminal charges, but this vital concept in Utah criminal law is often misinterpreted.

Plea in Abeyance Agreement Process

If you have not hired your defense attorney, this is an important step to take to ensure the terms you are acknowledging are fair and reasonable. A defendant is allowed representation during negotiations on the terms of the abeyance agreement and during any related hearings. This agreement has to be executed by the prosecuting attorney, the defendant, and the defendant's counsel before being accepted by the court.

Terms of Your Abeyance Plea

Although 12 month terms are common, a plea of abeyance could be longer than 18 months if the plea is a misdemeanor and longer than 3 years if the plea is to any felony or combination of misdemeanors. During the specified time, you would need to meet certain conditions.

Those conditions frequently include the following:

  1. No new law violations for those 12 months (petty traffic infractions are sometimes permitted).
  2. Payment of specific fees or fines connected to the plea in abeyance.
  3. Other conditions may include community service or various classes.

If you complete all of the requirements within that term, your case will be dismissed. To put it another way, your guilty plea, as well as the charges against you, would be dropped.

Utah Plea in Abeyance Example

Assume you and your wife had a disagreement at your house over the weekend. The police are called, and you are charged with disorderly conduct and domestic violence.

This is your first criminal charge, and you have been called before the City Justice Court for an arraignment.

Depending on the circumstances, a plea in abeyance on the domestic violence charge with the disorderly conduct charge removed might result. The City Justice Court sentences you to 12 months of court probation, a $700 fine, and attendance at a domestic violence instructional course.

If you complete the probationary period, the matter will be dismissed per the conditions of the Abeyance agreement are met.

What If I Violate the Plea Terms?

While a plea in abeyance may be a viable way to resolve your charges if you are eligible, you must comply with any obligations imposed on you. If you don’t fulfill the plea in abeyance agreement criteria, a guilty plea will be filed against you automatically. You would forfeit your right to a trial and right to challenge your charges, and your guilty plea would automatically convict you of the charge(s) you pleaded guilty to.

Criminal Offenses Ineligible for an Abeyance Plea

It is vital to remember that certain offenses and people are ineligible for a plea in abeyance:

  • Drunk driving charges are ineligible for pleas in abeyance.
  • Sex crimes concerning victims under the age of 14 are not eligible for pleas in abeyance.

Prosecutors frequently refuse to approve pleas in abeyance based on the following:

  • The severity and nature of the specific charges.
  • Whether the individual has previously had a plea in abeyance (and whether or not they successfully finished it).
  • The individual's specific criminal history.
  • Various other case-specific factors.

Remember, the prosecutor must authorize the abeyance plea. A plea in abeyance is not possible if they do not approve.

Contact Douglas D. Terry & Associates Today

If you have been arrested on criminal charges in Utah and want to enter a plea in abeyance, you need the help of Douglas D. Terry & Associates, a Southern Utah-based criminal defense firm. Contact our law firm right now to speak with a St. George, UT criminal defense lawyer about your case. Our experienced trial lawyers can help you fight for your rights and future.

Categories: Criminal Defense