Which is better, a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) or expungement through § 904.01(e)?  Each has its advantages. The answer in any specific case depends on the client and the judge.

DPA’s and Expungement are two different ways to resolve a case short of trial.  These programs are similar to Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) and STET docket, which are offered in Maryland.

DPA is an alternative to prosecution where the U.S. Attorney agrees to dismiss the case.  if the defendant can get 3 consecutive negative urine tests, and performs 32 hours of community service, over a 4 month period. The advantage: no prosecution, no conviction, and no admission of guilt by the client.  The disadvantage? No automatic expungement of the arrest record.

That’s the great advantage of D.C. Code § 48-904.01(e)  –  automatic expungement. Under this special code section for marijuana offenses, everything, including the arrest, is automatically expunged upon the successful completion of probation. The disadvantage? Under 904 (e), the client must plead  guilty or be found guilty after trial. There is no guarantee that the judge will grant 904 (e) probation, what the terms of probation will be, or the length of supervision. With particular judges, your sentence will vary.

What’s more, with a DPA, if the client fails to complete the program?  No harm done. The case just starts over from the beginning, with the client’s not guilty plea still intact.

With 904.01(e), the client has already been convicted. Any failure to comply with the conditions of the program could result in a probation revocation, loss of the expungement, and even jail time. Thus, 904.01(e) is high reward, but also with some risk.

Unfortunately, there is no ideal resolution of small marijuana cases in DC. Each programs has its benefits and drawbacks. Which is best in a particular case varies.

Zukerberg Law Center, PLLC
Adams Morgan Business District
1790 Lanier Place, NW
Washington, DC 20009-2118

Categories: 1st time offender, 904.01(e), Community Service/Diversion Programs, DPA, expungement, Marijuana Laws, PBJ - Probation Before Judgment, probation before judgment

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