What is Deferred Adjudication?

When you’re charged with a crime, there are three ways the case can end: your case could be dismissed, it could go to trial, or you could plea. A plea is when you plead guilty or no contest to the court without going through the trial process. Usually when someone pleas, there is an agreement with the state about what the punishment will be. You can also do plea without an agreement from the state and it’s up to the judge’s discretion on how to punish you.

One option if you plea is deferred adjudication. This is not an option if you are found guilty at trial. Deferred adjudication is a special type of probation, that could help you avoid a conviction and could lead to you being able to clean up your record. The judge would accept your plea and find that there’s enough evidence to find you guilty, but they would not find you guilty. If you successfully complete deferred adjudication, your case is dismissed. This means that you would never be convicted for that charge.

Who Qualifies for Deferred Adjudication

Normally, deferred adjudication is given to people who don’t have much criminal history or in lower level cases. Ultimately, it will depend on what can be negotiated with the prosecutor and what is allowed by law. There are some types of crimes where deferred adjudication isn’t allowed. Until a few years ago, deferred adjudication wasn’t allowed for DWIs. Thankfully that has changed and you can get deferred on a DWI, but there are still cases that aren’t eligible for deferred.

Good Things About Deferred

There are good things and bad things about deferred adjudication. The main benefit of deferred adjudication is that it’s usually a route to clean up your record later on. In most situations, if you successfully complete deferred adjudication you will be eligible to seal your record on that case with an order of nondisclosure. When people who are charged with a crime talk to me, one of their goals is usually to be able to clean their record up later. Deferred adjudication is often one way to accomplish this. In family violence cases, you will not be able to clean up your record even if you complete deferred adjudication. With deferred, you also avoid a conviction if you successfully complete it. This means that in a felony case, you can plea to the charge and not be a convicted felon.

Bad Things About Deferred

There are plenty of bad things about deferred adjudication too. First, it is a form of probation. This means that you will likely have fines and fees to pay, classes to take, community service to perform, probation officers to check in with, and not picking up any new cases. If the state thinks that you have violated any of the terms of your probation, they can file a motion to adjudicate you guilty. This is very similar to a motion to revoke probation. If the judge finds that you violated any of the terms of your probation, the judge can sentence you to the full range of punishment. This means that in a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced up to a year in jail. On a felony, you could be sentenced to 10 years, 20 years, or more depending on what you were originally charged with.

Even though you do not have a conviction, the case can still be used against you in some cases. If you’re charged with a second DWI or family violence case, an older charged can be used to enhance your new case even if you got deferred adjudication on the first case.

Should You Take Deferred?

If the state has a pretty good case against you, deferred adjudication may be a good deal if you can get it. It can enable you to clean up your record later on so this case doesn’t follow you around for the rest of your life. It’s important that you follow through all of the terms because if you don’t successfully complete it, this is a path that could lead to jail or prison and a conviction on your record.  If you’re considering taking a deferred adjudication offer or asking for deferred on your case, you should discuss it with your attorney. Every case is different and there are a lot of factors to consider when making the decision about whether or not to plea in your case.

If you have any questions about deferred adjudication or if you’re being charged with a crime in San Antonio, please schedule a free strategy session. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and help you with your case.

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Sean Henricksen

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