“Pay to Play” Deferred Prosecutions

A district attorney generally has discretion in structuring his or her approach to deferred prosecutions. The DA could have a broad program, allowing deferrals for all defendants who might be eligible as a matter of law. Or there could be no program at all (aside from the handful of diversions that are mandatory in certain circumstances). Regardless, whatever program the State has must not discriminate against defendants based on an improper classification. Characteristics like religion and race obviously are not permissible bases on which to condition access to a deferral program. A more difficult question, though, is what role a defendant’s financial situation may play in the State’s decision to defer prosecution.

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