If you prefer to take a plea, you will often have multiple options from the prosecutor. Below I will go into some of these possibilities, which are not exhaustive. They will not be available in every case.
This is, of course, the best outcome. If the prosecutor sees a problem with the case like lack of probable cause or lack of evidence, they may decide to dismiss. Dismissal might also come after a hearing on a motion to suppress evidence. If the judge decides that a critical piece of evidence is not allowed at trial, prosecutors may decide to dismiss rather than put on a case they are likely to lose.
This is not set out in any statute, and is instead an arrangement with prosecutors. Under a deferred Prosecution agreement, you admit guilt in a document that you give to the prosecutor. In exchange, the prosecutor dismisses the charges. You now must follow certain conditions as part of the agreement. The most common condition is that you must not be charged with a new crime for a period of time (usually 4-12 months). Sometimes Community Service Hours and/or classes are also ordered. Once you complete the requirements, your case is over. It was already dismissed and now can be expunged. Deferred Prosecution is usually a good option because you criminal record can be kept clear =and the requirements aren’t usually too difficult. The downside is that if you do pick up a new arrest, the prosecutor can use your admission of guilt to convict you.
Pretrial Diversion (PTD)
For defendants who don’t have much criminal history, PTD can be an option. This is a formal program put on by the court. If you are accepted into the program, your case is “put on hold”. After completing the program which consists of monthly fees, CSR, Classes, and sometimes other requirements like drug tests (Urine analyses or UAs), your case is formally dismissed by the court. This can be a good option for some but not all. Other examples of PTD are Drug Court and Veteran’s Court.
With both probation and deferred adjudication, you will have to report to a Probation Officer (PO), pay probation fees (about $60 per month), perform CSR, take classes, and obey various other conditions depending on your charge. Additionally, you might need to spend time in jail as a condition of probation (ACOP). Importantly, days spent ACOP are not softened with the 2-for1 rule mentioned earlier. Instead, these are served “day-for-day”. If you receive 10 days ACOP, you will serve all 10 days, but you do usually get credit for time already served.
The only difference with a deferred adjudication rather than probation is that you do not receive a conviction. However, the benefit of deferred adjudication is somewhat limited because an expunction is not available. You can seal the record with an order of non-disclosure, but the arrest remains on your record.
Although many clients shy away from a jail sentence, it can be a good option to escape a lengthy probation with it’s fees and conditions. A jail sentence is often not as bad as it seems.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you have the option of 1 year probation or a 10-day jail sentence. Let’s say you were arrested at 10:00 PM and released the next day. That’s already two “real” days, but since misdemeanor time is calculated 2-for-1, you already have credit for 4 days. That leaves 6 days to serve. So you turn yourself in at 10:00 PM on a Friday (yes that counts as a full day). You serve all day Saturday, and then you’re released Sunday Morning. That’s it, you’re done. For many, that can be far better than paying probation fees and reporting to an officer for the next year. The downside is that if you do take a jail time plea, you will always receive a conviction.