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What is Deferred Adjudication?

So, you, a friend, or family member was recently charged with a criminal offense in Texas and received “deferred adjudication.” You managed to avoid spending any time in jail or prison, paid your fines out, did community service work, and now your life is just splendid. But, what exactly is deferred adjudication, and how does it differ from traditional or “straight” probation in Texas?

Definition of Deferred Adjudication in Collin County, Texas

Essentially, deferred adjudication is a type of probation in Texas where a defendant is placed on probation for a certain period of time. The defendant enters a plea of guilty or no contest, but the Judge does not find the defendant guilty at that time and, instead, “defers” the finding of guilt along with the assessment of punishment. After that time, if the defendant successfully completes his or her probationary period, the case is dismissed and no formal conviction goes on the defendant’s criminal record.

What are the Advantages of Deferred Adjudication?

The primary advantage of receiving deferred adjudication in Collin County, Texas is the fact that, unlike with straight probation, upon successful completion of the probationary period, the defendant does not receive a final conviction on his or her criminal record. Additionally, since successful completion deferred adjudication is not considered a conviction in Texas, it may also prevent some of the consequences normally associated with a final conviction such as the defendant’s driver’s license being temporarily suspended.

Please note that while successful completion of deferred adjudication will not result in a final conviction under Texas law, a criminal background check will still uncover and show the initial arrest for the underlying charge that was disposed of through deferred adjudication. However, a defendant who has successfully completed deferred adjudication will most likely be able to petition the Court for an Order of Non-Disclosure which essentially seals all of the criminal records associated with the underlying offense. This will prevent potential employers, apartment complexes, and many other private organizations from learning of the criminal offense for which you were charged.

Are there any Disadvantages Associated with Deferred Adjudication to be Aware of?

To understand the potential pitfalls of deferred adjudication, one must first understand the difference between deferred adjudication and normal or “straight” probation. As you may recall, under straight probation, a defendant pleads guilty, punishment is assessed, and a formal conviction results at that time. For example, a defendant pleads guilty to a 2nd degree felony (which can result in a prison sentence anywhere from 2-20 years) and receives a 5 year prison sentence probated for 10 years. 8 years into the defendant’s probation, he or she violates the terms and conditions of probation. The maximum sentence the defendant would be looking at upon a motion to revoke his or her probation would be 5 years in prison.

Now, let’s use the same example above to illustrate the primary risk a defendant encounters under deferred adjudication in Texas. 8 years after taking the deferred adjudication option, the defendant violates the terms and conditions of his or her probation. Because the finding of the defendant’s guilt was deferred and punishment was not assessed at that time, a violation of deferred adjudication opens the defendant up to the entire range of punishment. Therefore, in the example used above, even after 8 successful years on probation, the defendant faces anywhere from 2-20 years in prison!

If You have been Charged with a Crime, Should You Take a Deferred Adjudication Option?

Maybe. While taking a deferred adjudication option may not result in a formal conviction under Texas law, the federal government may still treat a criminal charge that was disposed of through a Texas deferred adjudication option as a conviction. In addition, there are several exceptions found in the Texas statutes which may not give you any benefit above and beyond a final criminal conviction. Therefore, in an effort to protect your legal rights and ensure your future, I invite you to contact my office at (972) 372-4054 for a free consultation.

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