The Truth About Deferred Adjudication
Deferred adjudication is a type of plea bargain that can be entered into with the state. It involves a judge waiting to decide your guilt or innocence while you fulfill court-imposed conditions for a set time period. In other words, you case is put on pause while the court watches to see if you can stay out of trouble for a while. If you successfully complete this probationary period then your case will be dismissed and you will not be “convicted” of the charge you were facing.
However, a deferred dismissal isn’t as great as it sounds. A dismissal after completing a deferred does NOT mean the case disappears off of your criminal record. Records of your arrest and the disposition of your case will still be accessible to government agencies and potential employers. If you truly want a deferred dismissal to disappear off your record then you will need to take additional action by getting a non-disclosure. This ability to hide your criminal record from the public view with a non-disclosure is why deferred adjudications are generally only offered to first time offenders.
Deferred Adjudication is a gamble
With deferred adjudication your guilt or innocence is not determined until after you complete your probationary period under the court’s supervision. This is different than straight probation (i.e. community supervision) because with straight probation your punishment is determined at the time you agree to do the probation. Therefore, if you violate your probation then your punishment has already been predetermined with limits on how your probation can be extended.
On the contrary, it isn’t until after you violate a condition of your deferred adjudication that the District Attorney will ask the judge to adjudicate you. Unlike a straight probation violation, your sentence has still not been determined while you are on a deferred. This means the judge can still sentence you to the MAXIMUM punishment at the time of your violation. Which is exactly the gamble you take on a deferred. You’re betting that you will stay out of trouble and follow the court’s rules in exchange for the ability to non-disclose the offense later in your life.
Example: Joe is given 9 months deferred adjudication for an assault. This is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up a year in jail. Seven months into his sentence Joe picks up a possession of marijuana charge. It is now possible for the judge to sentence Joe to up to one year in jail after violating the conditions of his deferred adjudication.
Why Choose Deferred Adjudication?
The main benefit of deferred adjudication is the ability to receive a non-disclosure and remove an offense completely from the eyes of the public. This is important because hiding a past mistake through a non-disclosure can have a huge impact on your earning potential in life. If you feel that you’re capable of fulfilling the conditions set by the court, then deferred adjudication is undoubtedly a better plea bargain option than straight probation.
It should also be noted that ONLY a judge can grant deferred adjudication. Thus, a jury will not be able to give you deferred as a punishment option if you desire to go to trial. Additionally, some offenses, like DWI, do not even have deferred adjudication as an option. Lastly, deferred adjudication is not the same thing as “deferred disposition” which is a pre-trial diversion for Class C misdemeanors.
Remember, it’s important to be informed so that you don’t take a gamble that you’re unable to pay the stakes on. The more knowledgeable you are, the better you can communicate your goals to your attorney. If you have any questions about a plea bargain then call Third Coast Law today and talk to an attorney that will have your best interest in mind.