What Is Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) in California ?
In In re Luis B. (2006) 142 Cal.App.4th 1117, the court explained the deferred entry of judgment (DEJ) procedure:
" 'The DEJ provisions of section 790 et seq. were enacted as part of Proposition 21 . . . in March 2000. The sections provide that in lieu of jurisdictional and dispositional hearings, a minor may admit the allegations contained in a section 602 petition and waive time for the pronouncement of judgment. Entry of judgment is deferred. After the successful completion of a term of probation, on the motion of the prosecution and with a positive recommendation from the probation department, the court is required to dismiss the charges. The arrest upon which judgment was deferred is deemed never to have occurred, and any records of the juvenile court proceeding are sealed.'. . ." (Id. at pp. 1121-1122, citing Martha C. v. Superior Court (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 556, 558.)
Rule 5.800 sets forth the procedures for consideration of whether DEJ should be granted. "(b) Before filing a petition alleging a felony offense, or as soon as possible after filing, the prosecuting attorney must review the child's file to determine if the requirements of section 790, subdivision (a) are met. If the prosecuting attorney's review reveals that the requirements of (a) have been met, the prosecuting attorney must file Determination of Eligibility--Deferred Entry of Judgment--Juvenile (form JV-750) with the petition.
(1) If the court, the prosecuting attorney, and the child's attorney agree that the child should receive a deferred entry of judgment, the hearing under this rule must proceed on an expedited basis.
(2) If the court, the prosecuting attorney, and the child's attorney do not agree that the child should receive a deferred entry of judgment, the court may examine the record and make an independent determination. If it is determined that the child should not receive a deferred entry of judgment, the case must proceed under chapter 14, articles 1 through 4, of this division.
(c) The court must issue Citation and Written Notification for Deferred Entry of Judgment-Juvenile (form JV-751) to the child's custodial parent, guardian, or foster parent. The form must be personally served on the custodial adult at least 24 hours before the time set for the appearance hearing.
(d) . . . (2) If the child waives the right to a speedy disposition hearing, the court may summarily grant DEJ.
(3) When appropriate, the court may order the probation department to prepare a report with recommendations on the suitability of the child for DEJ or set a hearing on the matter, with or without the order to the probation department for a report." (Rule 5.800(b), (c) & (d).)
The juvenile court then "has the ultimate discretion to rule on the suitability of the minor for DEJ after consideration of the factors specified" in section 791 and Rule 5.800. (Luis B., supra, 142 Cal.App.4th at p. 1123.)
The juvenile court "may grant DEJ to the minor summarily under appropriate circumstances . . ., and if not must conduct a hearing at which 'the court shall consider the declaration of the prosecuting attorney, and report and recommendations from the probation department, and any other relevant material . . . .' While the court retains discretion to deny DEJ to an eligible minor, the duty of the prosecuting attorney to assess the eligibility of the minor for DEJ and furnish notice with the petition is mandatory, as is the duty of the juvenile court to either summarily grant DEJ or examine the record, conduct a hearing, and make 'the final determination regarding education, treatment, and rehabilitation . . . .' " (Ibid., citing section 791, subd. (b).)
"The court is not required to ultimately grant DEJ, but is required to at least follow specified procedures and exercise discretion to reach a final determination once the mandatory threshold eligibility determination is made. " (Ibid.)
In In re Kenneth J. (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 973, the court held that the minor's failure to admit the allegations of the petition was "tantamount to a rejection of deferred entry of judgment (DEJ)," and therefore the juvenile court was not required to conduct a hearing under section 790. (Id. at p. 980.)
Kenneth J. distinguished Luis B. on two grounds. First, in Luis B. "there was a failure of both the prosecuting attorney and the court to consider DEJ for a minor. Here, the prosecuting attorney satisfied the initial statutory obligation to consider DEJ." (Ibid.) Secondly, "Luis B. is factually distinguishable by Kenneth's actions that were tantamount to a rejection of DEJ." (Ibid.)
Kenneth's actions were his failure to "admit the allegations of the petition, . . . instead insisting on contesting them at a jurisdictional hearing." (Id. at p. 979.)
Kenneth J. noted that "it is perhaps true the DEJ statute makes no express provision for a minor in Kenneth's position, one who is advised of his DEJ eligibility, who does not admit the charges in the petition or waive a jurisdictional hearing, and who does not show the least interest in probation, but who insists on a jurisdictional hearing to contest the charges." (Kenneth J., supra, 158 Cal.App.4th at pp. 979-980.)
The court held that "the DEJ is clearly intended to provide an expedited mechanism for channeling certain first-time offenders away from the full panoply of a contested delinquency proceeding. That goal could not co-exist with a minor who insists on exercising every procedural protection offered, and who then on appeal faults the juvenile court for not intervening and short-circuiting those very protections." (Id. at p. 980.)