What is a deferred sentence in Oklahoma and can it apply to an assault and battery case?
Answer: A deferred sentence in Oklahoma is a type of probation usually extended to first-time offenders of most crimes. It does apply to assault battery, but it’s not always offered and it depends on the circumstances of the justice system in Oklahoma. Our incarceration rates are extremely high and they’re not always looking to put somebody in jail. However, they need tools in order to keep that from happening. But, yet still, rehabilitate what they consider to be offenders. So what they’ve come up with and what the state has come up with, is deferred sentence. Basically what it is, is you go in there and say, okay you need to either plead guilty to the charges, or no contest to the charges, whichever the case may be. But as part of your plea negotiation, the state says, okay if you’ll do these things, over this period of time—one year, two years, five years, even up to 10 years—in the state of Oklahoma, you can be on a deferred sentence. The court will not enter an adjudication of guilt. It appears as if they found you guilty, but you—but there is no finding of guilt. There is no conviction to the crime either, while you’re on probation, or if you’re successful after your probation is up. Instead what happens is, at the time of the plea, the defendant enters a guilty or no contest plea, whichever is able to be negotiated. The judge says, “Okay, I’m going to defer sentencing until whatever date, for whatever period of time.” Which means that that person is on probation for that period of time. During that time they have to do certain things. For example, with a DUI, they have to do a drug and alcohol assessment, DUI school, victim’s impact panel, potentially some community service, a judicial assessment of however much money in court costs and cost of incarceration.
With an assault battery, it could be an anger management class that they have to complete. But once they complete all of that and they pay all their fees and court costs and everything, as long as they’re in compliance, then when the date that their deferred sentence is over with, in some cases—in many cases in Oklahoma—the defendant does not have to reappear. The court automatically withdraws their plea of no contest or guilty, reenters a plea of not guilty for the defendant, and dismisses the charges. So there’s no, there’s never a conviction that appears on the books for that particular charge. What is nice about that, as far as most people are concerned, is on a true first offender, especially a young adult or young teenager, or whatever, is that upon completion of a deferred sentence, they may then be eligible for an expungement. Whereby they can get their arrest records sealed, and their court records sealed where the general public cannot go out and search that person and find a conviction on them. It truly gives the individual or the defendant a second chance, if you will, of being a productive citizen of society. In all those instances, though, even if they qualify for the expungement, due to a deferred sentence, the law enforcement will always be able to see it.