This guide discusses how Stipulated Order of Continuances (SOC) work to get criminal charges dismissed.
WHAT IS A STIPULATED ORDER OF CONTINUANCE?
In an SOC, the defendant enters into a contractual agreement with the city or state that is prosecuting the case. If the defendant successfully completes the various agreements under the SOC (stipulations), the state or city will move to dismiss the case at the end of the period of the agreement.
WHAT TYPES OF CHARGES DO SOC’s APPLY?
Assaults and Domestic Violence charges can be resolved by SOC (please see link). Also, property crimes; some vehicle crimes and some drug crimes can be dismissed via SOC. Almost all criminal charges can be resolved through SOC agreements. Indeed, Driving While Under the Influence (DUI) charges have their own device called Deferred Prosecution (please see attached link). For the most, part, however, sex crimes and upper-level felony drug delivery charges are unlikely to be resolved by SOC agreements because Prosecutors view these crimes as higher priority to prosecute.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF AN SOC?
Famed war strategist Sun Tzu said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” That said, the main benefit an SOC gives is that at the end of the period of deferral, if all conditions have been met, the case is dismissed. There is no criminal conviction, and no need to seek an acquittal through a risky trial. SOC’s are a win/win outcome. Because these agreements are contractual in nature, there really is no limit to the types of stipulations the parties can agree upon. If a defendant is truly considering entering an SOC, the defense attorney should attempt to find creative solutions which set their client up for success and minimize any risk exposure.
WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS?
SOC’s require a defendant to enter and complete treatment (domestic violence, drug and/or alcohol treatment), avoid criminal charges/convictions, pay restitution to victims and possibly be monitored by probation. If the defendant fails any of these stipulations, s/he risks revoking the SOC and being immediately sentenced on the underlying crime. Also, in order to be accepted into an SOC, the defendant must agree to the admissibility of the police report if the SOC be revoked as well as the sufficiency of the evidence contained therein to support a conviction. Consequently, if a person is revoked from an SOC, the court has been authorized ahead of time to simply review the police reports and that all parties agree the police reports should support a conviction. In other words, defendants who fail to comply with the terms of the SOC are almost always found guilty of the criminal charges. Finally, because the defendant is required to waive his right to a speedy trial and continue the case, SOC’s can be lenghty (up to 2 years to successfully complete).
TO SOC OR NOT TO SOC?
Ultimately, SOC’s are a privilege. Prosecutors entering these agreements must be convinced that the criminal charge was an isolated incident, the defendant is amenable to treatment and unlikely to re-offend. Consequently, the onus is on competent defense attorneys to put together strong merit packages for clients seeking these resolutions. SOC’s require a substantial amount of time and work to negotiate, draft, monitor and enter. Consult attorney Alexander Ransom if you believe your case warrants an SOC agreement. Good luck!
Additional resources provided by attorney Alexander Ransom: