Deferred Entry of Judgment, or DEJ, is part of Proposition 21, which was passed by California voters in 2000. DEJ is a sentencing alternative to the juvenile delinquency process. What it does is it allows minors who are charged with at least one felony to become eligible for a probation program. The minor must admit the charge(s) and successfully complete the DEJ probation and the Court will dismiss the case. Along with the dismissal, the Court will order the case sealed and the minor’s arrest is deemed never to have occurred.
Basic eligibility criteria for DEJ was established by Proposition 21 and if the minor meets the criteria, a hearing of held to determine whether the minor would benefit from DEJ. The benefits of DEJ are as follows:
1. It would provide immediate consequences for the minor’s actions and behavior. If the minor is not held accountable in some way for their actions, they may not realize the seriousness of the case and are therefore at risk for future problems.
2. DEJ reduces the time the minor spends in the juvenile delinquency process. The goal is for the minor to take responsibility and learn from the process, which can be achieved if, set up properly.
3. DEJ avoids the minor spending time in Juvenile Hall.
4. There are very few court appearances required with this process.
5. The case can be resolved much quicker than the regular process of juvenile prosecution.
6. The program is supported by the District Attorney, probation officers and the Court so it is positive all the way around.
7. As stated above, if the juvenile successfully completes the program, the records of the Court, probation, and law enforcement are sealed. And, the arrest for the offense will be deemed to never have occurred.
The requirements of DEJ probation are specific and strict but the benefits of successful completion outweigh the temporary rules under which the minor must live. Here is a list of typical requirements:
1. Obey all rules and regulations of your Probation Officer. The minor’s Probation Officer will advise the minor and the minor’s parents of the rules they expect the minor to follow. This will vary depending upon who the Probation Officer is and the type of offense committed.
2. Attend school regularly. This seems simple unless you have a minor who has had a history of cutting class or refusing to go to school. For those minors, this may prove challenging but ultimately, as the program intended, will prove to be extremely beneficial to the minor.
3. Complete some form of community service. The minor will either be given a list of community service options to choose from or, the Probation Officer/Court will tell the minor what it will be.
4. If the offense warrants, the Court will order that restitution be paid. A restitution hearing may be requested to determine the amount.
5. During the pendency of the probation, the minor must submit to search and seizure with or without a warrant.
6. The minor must abide by curfew. In some cases, the curfew will be what ever it is in that City/County but, in some cases, the Probation Officer may impose an earlier curfew.
7. And finally, violate no laws.
So what happens if the minor fails to successfully complete the program or if he or she picks up a new case? Well, as you might expect, the minor will be terminated from the program and he or she will be then declared a ward of the Juvenile Court. There are some exceptions and sometimes, an experienced juvenile defense attorney can convince the Court to reinstate the minor back into the program. But, this depends upon the circumstances of the failure or new offense. It is important to note that if new criminal charges are filed, the charges must be found to be true before the minor may be terminated from the program.
So, as you can see, the Deferred Entry of Judgment Probation Program is an extremely valuable program for any minor who is being charged with a felony. Unless your attorney feels he or she can get the charges dismissed based on the merits of the case, the DEJ program is what the goal should be.