DEJ stands for Deferred Entry of Judgment. DEJ is a sentencing alternative to jail or prison available to individuals who have been charged with certain drug offenses. DEJ is the suspension of criminal proceedings for a prescribed time period with certain conditions after a defendant's guilty plea. For example, in DEJ, the defendant pleads guilty to the drug charge, but sentencing is continued to a later time (6 to 18 months). Sentencing remains suspended so long as the defendant satisfies various conditions (e.g., drug treatment, court appearances, counseling, drug testing). If the defendant does not successfully fulfill the conditions of the DEJ, the criminal proceedings resume, and the defendant, having already pled guilty, is sentenced. On the other hand, if the defendant successfully meets the conditions of DEJ, the criminal charges are dismissed and the defendant may, with certain exceptions, legally answer that he or she has never been convicted of the diverted offense.
Deferrable Drug Offenses
Not all drug offenses are eligible for Deferred Entry of Judgment. The deferrable drug offenses are contained in California Penal Code section 1000(a), they include:
- Possessing controlled substances and/or restricted drugs
- Possessing marijuana
- Possessing drug paraphernalia
- Aiding, assisting or abetting the unlawful use of controlled substances
- Possessing prescription medications without a prescription
- Using or being under the influence of a controlled substance
- Possessing a glue-like substance with the intent to inhale it and become intoxicated
- Cultivating marijuana for personal use
- Creating or using a forged or altered narcotic medication prescription for personal use.
Other DEJ Requirements
In addition to the drug offense being deferrable, all of the following conditions also have to be satisfied:
- The defendant has no prior controlled substance convictions.
- The current case cannot involve a crime of violence or threatened violence.
- The current case cannot involve a drug offense that is not deferrable (e.g., if the defendant is charged with possession of marijuana (a deferrable offense) and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol (not a deferrable offense) DEJ would not be available).
- Any prior probation or parole must have been successfully completed.
- The defendant has had no felony convictions for the past five years.
- The defendant cannot have been granted deferred entry of judgment (DEJ) previously.
Unsuccessful Termination of DEJ
Ultimately, getting a criminal charge dismissed depends on the defendant's actions. A number of situations can result in the court terminating DEJ, entering judgment (i.e., conviction) and sentencing the defendant to jail or state prison, they include:
- The defendant fails the DEJ program (e.g., does not appear in court, fails drug tests, does not go to counseling).
- The defendant is not benefiting from education, treatment, or rehabilitation.
- The defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor that reflects the defendant's propensity for violence.
- The defendant is convicted of a felony.
- The defendant has engaged in criminal conduct rendering him or her unsuitable for deferred entry of judgment.
A person terminated from the DEJ program may be eligible for Proposition 36 sentencing. See Proposition 36.