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What is Deferred Adjudication?

Understanding Deferred Adjudication: What You Need to Know

Deferred adjudication is a way to handle your case in Texas that is very similar to probation, but does not result in conviction. That sounds like a great plan, but the reality is that for many defendants, deferred adjudication is actually not a great option. (Don’t confuse it for deferred prosecution, which is an awesome track for most who qualify because it results in dismissal.) Apart from the disposition, deferred adjudication feels very much like probation – you are assigned a probation officer, given probation conditions, and must pay probation fees.

The chief benefit of deferred adjudication is that you can have your criminal record sealed (not expunged). Be careful though, because some types of cases, like assault-family violence, CANNOT be sealed even with deferred adjudication. Even cases that are sealed are still visible to law enforcement, many licensing organizations, and some others. For the reasons above, I do not recommend deferred adjudication for many clients, but there are exceptions, like to avoid a first-time felony conviction – where deferred adjudication does make sense.

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With a DA, the court defers or postpones sentencing, but it's not right for everyone.  Discuss your options fully with your attorney before signing.

What is Deferred Adjudication in Texas?

Deferred adjudication in Texas is codified in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 42.A. It refers to a specific type of probation that allows defendants to keep a conviction off their criminal record. It’s usually the result of a plea agreement with the prosecution. A judge may elect not to enter a guilty finding and instead place the defendant on deferred adjudication probation after entering a “no contest” or “guilty” plea. Deferred adjudication may keep individuals from going to jail or prison.

Deferred Adjudication Meaning

Deferred adjudication is a type of criminal disposition that allows individuals to avoid a criminal conviction. It is a delay in judgment that gives individuals a chance to prove they have changed their ways.

Eligibility for Deferred Adjudication

Any person charged with a misdemeanor offense eligible for deferred adjudication. DWI charges were formerly not eligible, but now are eligible as long as the person installs an ignition interlock device for a period of time. Many felony cases are also eligible. First-time offenders are often offered deferred adjudication, but not all criminal offenses qualify.

How Deferred Adjudication Works (Guilty Plea is Deferred)

With deferred adjudication, you will be asked to enter a guilty plea, but that is not the end of the story. The finding of guilt is deferred pending your completion of probation. This occurs pre conviction, meaning a judge defers or puts off the acceptance of the plea in deferred adjudication. The judge’s discretion determines the conditions, which may vary from case to case.

Probation vs. Deferred Adjudication

The requirements for deferred adjudication and probation are basically the same. Deferred adjudication, as well as probation, are potential options for defendants that offer them a chance to avoid going to jail or prison after they commit a crime. Both options substitute jail time with community supervision. With probation, a defendant enters a plea of guilty or is convicted, and there is no deferred sentence. Instead, the court then determines the severity of the crime and assesses punishment.

Adjudication: What It Means for Your Criminal Record

One of the main benefits of deferred adjudication is the ability, with some charges, to remove the matter from the defendant’s criminal record. Successful deferred adjudication means that no conviction was ever entered, allowing the defendant to later seal the charges from their criminal record with an order of nondisclosure. Completing probation is the equivalent of completing the jail sentence, and the conviction typically remains on the defendant’s record.

A deferred adjudication prevents a conviction from going on your record, but the criminal charge may still appear. Successful completion of deferred adjudication typically means your criminal record can be sealed with an order of nondisclosure. A criminal record – even if sealed -can have severe implications for your future, including employment and home life.

Completing Deferred Adjudication

The probation period depends on the type of charges you face, with a maximum of ten years for felony probation and up to two years for misdemeanor charges. The probation period is set by the court and is a condition of the deferred adjudication agreement. Completing probation or community supervision is a condition of the agreement.

Probation Period and Requirements

A period of deferred adjudication community supervision cannot exceed 10 years in a felony case and cannot exceed two years in a misdemeanor case. A judge can impose a fine and also impose confinement and mental health treatment as a requirement of deferred adjudication. Conditions of deferred adjudication can vary depending on the case, but some common requirements include community service hours, maintaining gainful steady employment, court fines, confinement, and mental health treatment.

Consequences of Violating Deferred Adjudication

A motion to revoke could swiftly restart criminal proceedings.

If your probation officer determines you have violated the terms of your probation, you are entitled to a hearing on a motion to adjudicate guilt to determine whether or not you violated the terms. A judge can either reinstate your probation, amend the conditions, or revoke your probation and convict you of the original crime. Breaking the conditions of your probation can result in a harsher punishment than if you had opted for regular probation.

What Happens If You Break the Conditions of Your Probation?

When a defendant fails to successfully complete the requirements for a deferred adjudication, the prosecutor can file a motion to adjudicate guilt. If the judge finds that the violations are true, he or she has authority to execute the full amount of your jail sentence. You could also be continued on community supervision or given additional conditions.

Criminal defense attorney Rob Chesnutt can explain your options.

Contact a Skilled Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense, and you want to explore your options, including deferred adjudication, contact a skilled attorney at ATX Legal law offices. Call/text, or fill out a contact from to set up a free consultation. Understanding your rights and the potential impacts on your criminal record is crucial for making informed decisions about your case.

505 West 12th Street, Suite 200 Austin Texas 78701

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