Deferred Prosecution vs. Court Supervision vs. Conviction

Many clients have asked me what the difference is between a deferred prosecution agreement, court supervision, and a conviction. To make matters worse, there is a difference between a deferred prosecution agreement of a local city ordinance violations and a deferred prosecution agreement of a felony. There are also alternative dispositions such as TASC probation, adjudications and First Offender Probation. Further, there are differences between how the State and the Federal government handle dispositions. The basic question is, “How is my case going to turn out for my record?”

Most dispositions (case results) can be broken down into several groups: (1) A negotiated disposition prior to entry of any plea of guilty; (2) A disposition after a plea of guilty but before a judgment of conviction enters; (3) A disposition that involves a judgment of conviction subject to being vacated; and (4) Dispositions involving actual convictions.

Dispositions Prior to the Entry of Any Plea of Guilty

This category covers cases which were dismissed prior to any plea of guilty. It includes cases which the State has requested to nolle prosequi (declined to prosecute further), Stricken on Leave (AKA SOL, same effect as nolle prosequi, but is essentially unique to Cook County and without a true statutory basis), or dismissed by the Court. It also covers some ordinance violation dispositions agreed upon by your local prosecuting agency, such as the City of Naperville. In such situations, a private agreement is made between the local prosecuting agency and the Defendant, which does not involve a plea of guilty to the Court. It also does not result in a conviction under local Illinois law or Federal law.

Under Federal law, a “conviction” means,

    With respect to an alien, a formal judgment of guilt of the alien entered by a court or, if adjudication of guilt has been withheld, where – (i) a judge or jury has found the alien guilty or the alien has entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere or has admitted sufficient facts to warrant a finding of guilt, and (ii) the judge has ordered some form of punishment, penalty, or restraint on the alien’s liberty to be imposed.

8 U.S.C. § 1101 (a)(48)

Therefore, there is no conviction under State or Federal law. because no plea of guilty is ever entered. The most common question here is, “Will this be on my record?” The answer is actually YES, as an “Arrest”. For the purposes of Illinois, it is taken off your record by expunging it. There is no statutory waiting period for expunging these cases, and the expungement will have the general effect of deleting the offense off your criminal history. However, until an expungement order has been entered, the case will still show in the local circuit clerk’s office and on detailed criminal histories.

Disposition After a Plea of Guilty but Before a Judgment of Conviction Enters

This category covers cases where there was a plea of guilty, but the Court deferred imposing a conviction. Technically, the charge is dismissed. In DuPage County, the most common type of disposition in this category is “Court Supervision”. Court Supervision is defined in 730 ILCS 5/5-1-21 as,

A disposition of conditional and revocable release without probationary supervision, but under such conditions and reporting requirements as are imposed by the court, at the successful conclusion of which disposition the defendant is discharged and a judgment dismissing the charges is entered.

Also included in this section is “Section 10″ probation” (720 ILCS 550/10) of the Illinois Cannabis Control Act, “Section 410″ probation” (720 ILCS 570/410) of the Illinois Controlled Substance Act,  “First Offender Probation” (730 ILCS 5/5-6-3.3),  and “Second Chance Probation”. (730 ILCS 5/5-6-3.4).

The important distinction here is this reuslt does not count as a conviction for Illinois purposes, but does count as a conviction for Federal purposes. (See: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).

When an (Illinois) employer in this situation asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony”, the technical answer is “no”, because you have not been convicted if you have been placed upon court supervision.

However, for the question, “Will this show up on my record?”, a good check will still answer “yes”. It will show up as a “Court Supervision”. This is contrary to the assertion of some attorneys who say it will automatically be off the Defendant’s record in X years. Law enforcement keeps track of court supervisions because they want to know when you are not a first time offender.

The typical expungement waiting period to clear your record for this situation is two years from the date the case is formally dismissed.

Disposition that Involve a Judgment of Conviction Subject to Being Vacated

This category includes TASC probation (20 ILCS 301/40-10(e)). Here, a conviction is formally entered on your record. It can be vacated after the probationary period has expired if the attorney files the proper paperwork ahead of time. It does initially count as a conviction for both State and Illinois purposes, but will not count as a conviction for the purposes of enhancing a penalty based upon prior offenses if the probationary period is successfully completed. It typically has special requirements for expungement.

Dispositions Involving Actual Convictions

This category includes “straight convictions”. It also includes sentences of “probation” and “conditional discharge”. It is the automatic result of most felony dispositions. When most people ask whether  a case will be on their record, this is one of the types that will officially be considered a conviction. The important parts are the “plea of guilty” and the “entry of a judgment of conviction”. This also includes most “Alford pleas”, or pleas of “Nolo Contendere” under North Carolina v. Alford, 400 US 25 (1970). These cases are frequently not eligible for expungement. However, such convictions can sometimes be sealed in certain circumstances.


Ultimately, the real questions being asked are:
(1) Is this a conviction? (It depends on your disposition)
(2) Is this a conviction for immigration purposes? (Yes, almost always if you plead guilty or entered a plea of nolo contendere).
(3) Will this show up on my criminal history or background check? (Yes, almost always unless it is expunged).

2 thoughts on “Deferred Prosecution vs. Court Supervision vs. Conviction

  1. Roxana

    I was on the deferred prosecution program in Kane county four years ago and I completed it successfully. I was wondering if I would be eligible to expunge my felony right now. I would greatly appreciate your help on this. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance for your help.


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