In Utah, a “plea in abeyance” means that you plead “guilty” or “no contest” to the charges, you have that plea held in abeyance for a maximum of one year, you complete the conditions of a plea in abeyance agreement, and you have the charges dismissed after the abeyance period, so that there is no criminal conviction on your record.
Most attorneys withdraw from their client’s cases when they are sentenced or the plea in abeyance is entered by the court. I never do that.
Here is the difference:
A client with a plea held in abeyance can have their pleas withdrawn and the charges dismissed at the end of a period of time, if they complete the agreed-upon list of things. These usually include a payment to the court for “costs” that is equal to the fine for that charge, a “book and release” where you either show up for fingerprints or mail-in fingerprint cards, and some are required to obtain evaluations from licensed counselors and complete some treatment.
The attorney who stays on the case can catch any potential violations and advise the client to get it fixed before they violate their probation and lose the benefit of their plea in abeyance. This is because I remain as counsel of record, so when something happens, I get notified and pass that on to my client. Late on a payment? I let you know. Did not turn in the proof of treatment? I let you know.
And at the end of the plea in abeyance period, if the client did everything, paid everything, and has no new violations, I file the paperwork to withdraw their pleas and dismiss the case. This can amount to an extra hour or two of work, and I never charge clients for this service. More of my clients successfully completed their pleas in abeyance because I shepherd them along the way.
When an attorney withdraws from the case, the attorney does not get notice. When the time is up, the client is on their own to file the correct documents with the court to end the abeyance period and dismiss their charges. Many people assume that once the 12 months have expired, the case automatically is dismissed and even expunged.
That is far from true. You must file paperwork in most courts to get the charges dismissed, and expungement is a separate action you take AFTER the charges are dismissed. To not explain this to clients and not be there for them during the plea in abeyance period to answer questions, just makes no sense to me. I want my clients to succeed, so I stay on the case to help them in every way I can.
And some clients plead guilty or are found guilty at trial and are on probation. I likewise never withdraw from their cases, answer their questions at no charge, let them know in advance if there are any issues with being late on something before it turns into a probation violation. I do charge extra for probation violations, but I do not charge extra to help my clients avoid probation violations.
Why don’t all criminal defense attorneys do the same?
If you have been arrested in St. George or Southern Utah, call Edward D. Flint at (435) 740-8460 or fill out an online contact form to schedule a free consultation today. With more than 33 years of criminal defense experience, I have personally handled 100+ jury trials!