There are many ways that a criminal charge can be resolved. A deferred prosecution is one of the more favorable of those ways.
In essence, a deferred prosecution is an agreement reached between the defendant and his/her attorney and the prosecutor that if the defendant stays out of trouble and completes certain actions, then the case against the defendant will be dismissed. This differs from a deferred judgment, court supervision, or a conviction in that there is not a guilty plea entered. That fact means that a deferred prosecution is a much more favorable outcome, as there are many situations where entering a plea of guilty – even if a deferred judgment or court supervision is later granted by the court – can lead to negative legal and employment consequences that would not apply in the event of a deferred prosecution.
Deferred prosecutions require that the prosecution agree to such an outcome. It is not possible to force the prosecution to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement, and that means that obtaining a deferred prosecution requires a good deal of negotiations on the part of the defense attorney. As an attorney who has obtained deferred prosecutions in both Illinois and Iowa for clients who were facing criminal charges, I can say that such negotiations be both very involved and of great importance.
Often, a person who receives a deferred prosecution will be required to stay out out of trouble for some amount of time (often 6 months), and also take some other action. That “other action” may involve paying restitution, taking an anger management class, obtaining drug treatment, etc. Sometimes the action that the prosecutor wants is something that is easy and takes little time. In other situations, that requested action is quite burdensome. In the event that the requested action is taken and the accused stays out of trouble, then the case would be dismissed without a conviction. A failure to follow through on the promise to stay out of trouble and complete the action would generally result in the prosecutor proceeding with the criminal charges (and not likely being willing to make a favorable deal in the future).
There are cases where a deferred prosecution is the best outcome to be had. For example, if a person is unlikely to prevail at trial or does not with to have the risk of conviction at a trial, then a deferred prosecution may very well be the best possible outcome. On the other hand, a deferred prosecution involves the case being left open for months as the accused stays out of trouble and completes some other action requested by the prosecution. As such, it can be a time-consuming process for a person. Whether a person’s charges can be resolved through a deferred prosecution, and whether that is a wise outcome to seek should be discussed with one’s attorney.