A plea in abeyance is when an individual who is being charged with a crime is given a chance to enter into an agreement with the prosecuting attorney so that if the defendant completes certain terms during a defined time period, the case will be dismissed.
For example, let’s say that you are being charged with domestic violence assault in the Utah County Justice Court and it is the first time you have ever had to face criminal charges in your life. Normally, in another county, you would be eligible for a plea in abeyance. In such a case you would pay a “fee” (not a fine), take an anger management class, and not get in trouble for 12 months and then the case would be dismissed and you could get the arrest record expunged right after that. Sounds pretty good and pretty fair, doesn’t it.
For whatever reason, the Utah County District Attorney’s Office doesn’t offer pleas in abeyance. So in the case of the first time domestic violence charges, you would not get the benefit of being able to get that case dismissed after 12 months. Instead, you would be forced to either take a plea to a lesser offense, plea straight up, or go to trial and take your chances with a jury.
While you certainly don’t have a right to enter into a plea in abeyance agreement with a prosecutor, Utah County is certainly out of the norm. Most counties offer pleas in abeyance. It is a just way to approach the criminal process. Someone who made a mistake and is not a repeat offender should be given a second chance but should also be held accountable. That is exactly what a plea in abeyance does: it keeps offenders responsible but gives them the ability to work through it in a way that will not ruin their future.