In an attempt to keep otherwise good people out of jail following a criminal conviction, the North Carolina courts allow for less severe sentencing measures. These measures also contribute to defendants’ rehabilitation. If you are the defendant in a criminal case and the prosecution presents the term “conditional discharge agreement” to you, it is important that you understand what this means and whether you qualify.
The North Carolina Prosecutors’ Resource Online explains the basics of a conditional discharge agreement. It also explores the eligibility criteria your case must meet to qualify for such an agreement.
A conditional discharge agreement is one the prosecution might offer or one that your attorney may suggest if the courts determine you are guilty of the crime in question. You may also qualify for this agreement if you plead guilty. The prosecution will present the agreement before the sentencing hearing.
If you and the prosecution agree on the terms of a conditional discharge agreement, the courts will defer all further proceedings and place you on supervised or unsupervised probation. The courts will not enter a guilty judgment.
If you successfully complete the terms of the agreement, the prosecution and courts will withdraw your finding or plea of guilt and dismiss the charges against you. If, however, you violate the terms of your probation, the courts will proceed to enter an adjudication of guilt, and you will be subject to the sentencing guidelines associated with the crime you committed.
Conditional discharge agreements are not an option in every situation. To be eligible for such an agreement, the charges against you can be no more serious than a misdemeanor or Class H or Class I felony. Moreover, the courts must also determine that each of the following is true:
There are some exceptions to these rules. For instance, North Carolina specifically authorizes the use of conditional discharge agreements for persons charged with prostitution, so long as they undergo a drug treatment program.
If the courts convict you of a crime that requires jail time, you may have other options. Talk to your lawyer about conditional discharge agreements.