Traditionally, a person accused of committing a crime has had three choices after plea negotiations were exhausted:
- Plead guilty/no contest with an agreed upon
- Plead guilty/no contest without an agreed upon disposition with an opportunity for the State and the defense to present arguments to the court for what each party believes is an appropriate The court ultimately decides what the sentence will be.
- Have a trial before a judge or a
In Maine there is a fourth option: a Deferred Disposition. Unlike, the other three, this option requires acquiescence from the State.
How Deferred Disposition Works
The accused enters a plea of guilty. However, the court does not impose a sentence. This is not a conviction. Under Maine law, a conviction does not occur until the court imposes a sentence.
Immediately after the accused enters a guilty plea, the court essentially takes a “time out” and defers, postpones, the final disposition of the case for a predetermined amount of time.
Prior to the entry of the plea, the prosecutor and the accused execute a written deferred disposition agreement. The agreement is a contract. Like all contracts, each party agrees to do specific things. For example: the accused may be required to perform community service, complete a substance abuse evaluation and follow up treatment if recommended, pay a monthly supervision fee, etc. The obligations will be determined based upon the nature of the charges. The State will agree to reduce or dismiss the charges if the accused complies with his/her obligations at the end of the deferment.
The length of the deferment will also be set forth in the written agreement. The typical deferred disposition agreement is for one year. Some are shorter, some are longer. Like all terms of the agreement, the length of the deferment are subject to negotiations between the defense and the State.
It takes two parties to make a contract. The State must agree to enter into a deferred disposition in order for the accused to exercise this option. There are several reasons why the State may agree to do so. Examples: the prosecutor’s office has a policy of offering deferred dispositions for certain minor offenses like shoplifting; the State has a weak case; the accused has addressed underlying issues such as a substance use disorder and other considerations.
If you have been accused of committing a crime, your first choice is the most important one that you must make: choosing the best lawyer to represent you. I encourage you to speak with several lawyers before making this important decision. I also encourage you to contact us for a free consultation at 207- 879-4000.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general, not specific, information about Maine law. The publication of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author(s) and the reader(s).