The word criminal often induces a stereotypical image in the mind of a hardened person with no conscience or regret for illegal behavior. Of course, people exist who fit that description, but many times criminals are just everyday citizens who made a mistake. Alcohol, peer pressure, financial struggles, mental illness and more can all push someone in the wrong direction, and a person may end up doing something he or she would not normally do.
An error in judgment should not define someone who faces criminal charges, yet the law is all about seeking justice and dispensing punishment. It may seem as if all hope were lost, but first-time offenders do not need to give up. If you are dealing with the consequences of a poor choice for the first time, you may have options to prevent the lifelong challenges of a conviction. One of them is a conditional discharge, but this course requires pleading guilty. The better route is through deferred prosecution.
This term means that the prosecution will drop the charges against you if you fulfill specific conditions. You may have to complete courses or treatment, participate in community service and pay restitution to the victim. Being involved in further criminal activity results in the full penalty of the charges.
There are two types of deferred prosecution: formal and informal. An informal agreement is for minor misdemeanors, whereas a formal agreement is for those who have committed a Class H or I felony or a high-level misdemeanor. Either way, to be eligible, you have to meet the following requirements under North Carolina law:
- You do not have previous convictions or probations.
- The victims are aware of the agreement and do not contend it.
- You are unlikely to commit any further crimes.
- The prosecutor must offer this option and the court must approve it.
Once you complete the terms, you can move forward with your life. The deferred prosecution will show up on your criminal record, but you can seek an expungement to clear it.