If you are charged with a criminal offense, you may have the option of disposing of your case through a plea of guilty or no contest and getting either Deferred Adjudication or Probation.  Basically you have to follow the rules for a period of time and then you are released from either one, so what is the difference??

The difference can be HUGE for your future, so pay attention!

What is Deferred Adjudication Probation?

Deferred adjudication is a specific type of probation where once the probation period is successfully completed, the case is dismissed without the Court ever placing a finding of “GUILTY” on your record.  You do enter a guilty plea to start the process, but the judge does not find you guilty and instead “defers” that finding of guilt during the probationary period and never enters it unless you break the rules and Community Supervision Department (i.e., your probation officer) asks them to through Motion to Adjudicate.

Having no finding of guilt is beneficial in so many ways!  For a felony case in particular, it means that you are never considered a convicted felon and you retain many rights that you would lose with a felony conviction.  Also, this prevents an offense from being used later to enhance a later offense and increase the punishment range on the later offense. And it prevents driver’s license suspensions on any drug convictions.  Remember though, there are always special circumstances.  For example, there is no deferred option for a DWI and during your probationary period, the rules you follow will likely be as strict as if you are on “Regular” or “Straight” probation (explained below).

With that wonderful benefit comes a very big risk.  IF you mess up, a Motion to Adjudicate is filed by your probation officer and the Court finds you guilty of the offense you were charged with, the Court can use the full range of punishment to sentence you.  That means that you could potentially receive the maximum punishment for the crime and many courts have a standing policy that if you are revoked, you will receive the maximum!

For example, if a defendant takes a plea for 10 years of deferred on a 3rd degree felony, the punishment range for that crime is 2-10 years in prison. If a defendant violates while on deferred, the judge can sentence them up to 10 years in prison. So be sure that you are comfortable with the risk before agreeing to Deferred Adjudication.

Upon completion of Deferred Adjudication Probation, your record will show the disposition of your case as receiving deferred adjudication and the charges will be viewable unless you apply for an order of non-disclosure.  There is a waiting period for an application of non-disclosure and no matter what, law enforcement will always be able to see the information.  Going forward, if you apply for a non-disclosure and you notice anyone publicizing the information, you can send them a copy of the Order of Non-Disclosure and they are obligated to remove the information from public view.   With today’s technology, many people will have this information and it may take considerable effort to remove it from as many public sources as you can locate to protect your employment options going forward.

So how is all of this different from Regular or Straight Probation?

Regular or straight probation comes with a conviction.  When you plead guilty in the beginning, the Court enters a finding of guilt on your record.  This cannot be non-disclosed or expunged later (except in extremely unusual circumstances).

Another key difference is the consequence of violating the probationary rules.  When the initial plea is made, you plea to a term in jail or prison and that term is probated for a certain period of time (your probationary period).  If you violate during that time, you can only be sentenced up to the term in jail or prison that you originally pled to.  Using the same felony example, a defendant might plea to a 2-year sentence, probated for 10 years. So the defendant would be looking at a potential 2-year sentence upon violation.

As you can see there are many perks to Deferred Adjudication Probation, but there are some significant risks.  Seek advice about your specific case before making any decisions!  Call now to set up an appointment to discuss your options: 254-835-0009.