If your criminal case results in a conviction, the court must decide whether to punish you with incarceration, or give you the opportunity to instead serve your sentence on probation. Whether you are granted probation depends on the same factors that influence sentencing generally, such as your prior criminal history, the facts of the case, the victim's input at sentencing, your level of remorse, and most importantly, whether the judge believes that probation is sufficient to correct the offending behavior.
In some Boulder Court divisions, the judge will allow your criminal defense lawyer to reach an agreement with the prosecutor ahead of time, so that you know for sure that if you plead guilty, you will be granted probation. In other court divisions, the judge reserves this decision-making power, and does not allow a "stipulated sentence" to be agreed to in advance by the attorneys in the case. In cases where a stipulated sentence is not allowed, the district attorney's input will nonetheless have a substantial effect on the judge's decision. Good defense lawyers will work to get the prosecutor bending toward leniency before the case comes into court for sentencing.
While on probation, you must abide by all terms and conditions that probation imposes, or that the judge directly orders at the sentencing in your case. These conditions of probation often include rehabilitative classes, public service, paying court costs or restitution, and any other requirement imposed by the court. Failure to comply with the terms of probation can result in a probation revocation, allowing the judge to resentence you on the original charges.
Probation may be ordered as supervised or unsupervised. Supervised probation involves the over-sight of a probation officer, and the requirement that you report to the officer, and follow any instructions that they give to you. Supervised probation is normally imposed, unless the offense is minor, or there is some other situation that makes probation supervision unduly difficult. For example, some out-of-state defendants are allowed to do unsupervised probation due to the inherent difficulties in getting another jurisdiction to supervise a probation sentence ordered from Boulder County Court. However, the court may still require the defendant to mail proof to the court of having completed the court-ordered requirements. In cases where the court insists that an out-of-state defendant serve supervised probation, the defendant may have to apply for the transfer of their probation through the Interstate Compact.
A "deferred sentence," more precisely called a deferred judgment and sentence, is a form of probation that allows you to earn your way out of a conviction. A deferred sentence can only come as a result of plea negotiations with the district attorney. The judge has no authority to give you a deferred sentence in your case. If you accept a plea offer for a deferred judgment and sentence, you will plead guilty to the court. The court will then retain your guilty plea throughout the probationary period, and if you are successful on probation, the court will then dismiss the case against you, without ever imposing a criminal conviction. Successfully completing a deferred sentence may even allow you to seal your criminal record entirely, making it impossible for anyone (except for the court) to see that you were ever even charged with a crime.
Special Types of Probation
Certain types of probation involve specific treatment requirements. For example, probation for a domestic violence offense will require domestic violence classes. DUI probation will require alcohol education. Sex offenses will require sex offense-specific treatment, and so on. We will advise you of what to expect of your probationary sentence, so that you are making an informed decision regarding how to resolve your criminal case.