Deferred Entry of Judgment under W&I Code § 790

When a minor (i.e. a person under the age of 18) has been arrested and charged with a crime the case will likely be handled through the juvenile court system. The aim of the juvenile court system is to rehabilitate offenders whenever possible. The hope is that the individual will learn from their mistake and won’t reoffend.  That is why a juvenile can apply to have his or her felony dismissed after completing a program called Deferred Entry of Judgment.

What is DEJ?

California’s “Deferred Entry of Judgment” is a program that puts the aim of rehabilitation in to action.” The basic idea of this program is to offer a form of probation for certain first time offenders which, after successful completion, will be erased along with the record of arrest granting the minor a clean slate. Of course there are certain requirements to be eligible for the program and it isn’t a simple pass, but a minor facing charges should know that there is hope. This article will shed light on the particulars of the program.

Am I Eligible for DEJ?

The Deferred Entry of Judgment (or DEJ) program was enacted in 2000 following the passage of Proposition 21. It is codified in Welfare and Institutions (WIC) Code section 790.  You can read the full code here.  To be eligible for DEJ the minor must meet the following requirements:

  1. The minor has not previously been declared to be a ward of the court for the commission of a felony offense;
  2. The charged offense must not be one of several listed under WIC 707(b). The offenses listed in 707(b) are all violent crimes and include (among other charges) murder, arson, robbery, rape or sodomy by force, kidnapping, and attempted murder. The full list can be read here.
  3. The minor hasn’t previously been committed to the Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Facilities. Restated, the minor must not have ever served time in Juvenile Prison;
  4. The minor’s record doesn’t indicate that probation has ever been revoked prior to completion;
  5. The minor is at least 14 years old by the time of their hearing.
  6. The minor is eligible for probation under Penal Code Section 1203.06. Penal Code section 1203.06 states that probation can’t be used in lieu of other punishment when the accused personally uses a firearm in the commission or attempted commission of any of several listed crimes including murder, robbery, kidnapping, rape, and others.
  7. The charged offense can not be rape, sodomy, oral copulation, or an act of sexual penetration specified by Penal Code section 289 when the victim was prevented from resisting either through the use of an intoxicant (such as alcohol or sedatives) or was incapable of consenting because of a mental or physical disability, and the inability to resist or consent was or should have been known by the minor at the time of the offense.
  8. The final requirement is that the prosecuting attorney is to review the case file to determine whether the charged minor qualifies with items 1 – 7. If after their review they find the minor is so eligible, they can either file a written declaration or state for the record the grounds upon which they’ve made the determination of eligibility. This information also goes to the minor and their attorney. Upon a finding that the minor is also suitable for DEJ and would benefit from education, treatment, and rehabilitation, the court can grant DEJ and set a DEJ hearing date.

What Happens if DEJ is granted?

As the requirements of the program illustrate the program is specifically for first time offenders over the age of 14 who are accused of a non-violent felony. When a minor is deemed eligible for the program they are then required to complete a period of formal probation. This is similar to when an adult is required to check in with a probation officer following their release from prison. It is very important for the minor to comply with all terms set for them by the judge that deems them eligible for the program.

Upon successful completion of the program and the minor attaining the age of 18 the record of the arrest and the charges are actually wiped clean, rather than having the record sealed. This makes it as though the arrest never happened which guarantees that the individual will not be required to disclose on school or job applications.

If the minor isn’t eligible for the DEJ program they may be eligible for their record to be sealed. You can read about how to seal juvenile records here.