The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled in a Story County case that a deferred judgment is considered a conviction. Deng Kon Tong pled guilty to a felony second-degree burglary charge in February of 2009, and was given a deferred judgment and three years probation.

The deferred judgment would give him the chance to wipe the charge from his record if he successfully completed the probation. In December of 2009 Tong was arrested carrying a sawed-off shotgun and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. A jury found him guilty of the firearm possession charge and he was sentenced to up to five years in jail.

Tong moved to have the firearm charge dismissed saying the deferred judgment on the burglary charge could not be considered a felony conviction. The district an appeals court ruled the deferred judgment could be considered a conviction on the felony charge.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that it believes the legislature intended a conviction to include a deferred judgment where the defendant had not successfully completed the term of his or her probation. Justice David Wiggins agreed with the opinion but with a special note. Wiggins says there’s still a question if a deferred judgment can be used to enhance someone’s penalty even after they have pled guilty in anticipation of the deferred judgment.

Wiggins says for example, he does not believe the legislature intended for someone who was given a deferred judgment to be kept from owning a gun or hunting in Iowa. Wiggens says the legislature might want to revisit the issue and clearly identify when the state can enhance a punishment after a deferred judgment.