The error can occur when attempting to perform an Advanced Join, in ArcMap 8.3, using the option to "Keep only matching records". The error occurs under the following circumstances:
1. The join is between a versioned feature class and an unversioned database table which is loaded into ArcMap through an ArcSDE connection to a SQL Server database.
2. Neither the feature class nor the table are loaded as their respective data owners.
The entire error message is:
Error joining tables.
Attribute column not found[Microsoft OLE DB Provider for SQL Server: Deferred prepare could not be completed.][<database>.<Feature class owner>.<Feature class name>][STATE_ID=0]
This is a known issue with ArcSDE 8.3.
This issue has been resolved for ArcSDE 9.0.