Question: I went to court on a trespassing charge. Instead of jail, I got a “plea in abeyance” cause the judge said this was better. Now I have to do community service. There were lots of people in the courtroom, so I didn’t ask any questions. So what is a “plea in abeyance”?
The Utah Code of Criminal Procedure defines a plea in abeyance as, “order by a court… accepting a plea of guilty or of no contest from the defendant but not, at that time, entering judgment of conviction against him nor imposing sentence upon him on condition that he comply with specific conditions as set forth in a plea in abeyance agreement.” (Utah Code § 77-2a-1(1)).
Abeyance means “a state of suspension.” This means that if you take this plea, you are not being convicted of anything and the judge isn’t sentencing you. You just have to follow the conditions that the judge sets, and if you do, the court will reduce or dismiss your charges.
If you do violate the conditions, you will have to go back into court and explain why the judge should not find that you violated the conditions of the plea. If the judge finds that you violated the conditions, then she can terminate the plea agreement and enter a judgment of conviction and impose a sentence against you for the original crime that you were charged. It goes without saying that it is much better to follow the conditions of your plea in abeyance than to be convicted of a crime.
If you are going to court because you were charged with a crime, you should have an experienced criminal trial lawyer with you that can negotiate a favorable plea in abeyance for you.