How Does “Deferred Adjudication” Work In A Texas Criminal Case?
In some criminal cases, prosecutors will agree to what is known as a deferred adjudication. This basically means that the defendant agrees to plead guilty (or “no contest”) the alleged crime, but the judge does not immediately enter a judgment of guilt. Instead, the defendant must serve a term of probation–which is called community supervision in Texas. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the court will then dismiss the original charge, meaning it will not appear as a conviction on the defendant’s record.
Of course, if the defendant does violate their probation, the district attorney can then move the court to “adjudicate” the defendant’s guilt on the original charge. If the judge decides to revoke community supervision and adjudicate guilt, the defendant faces the same range of criminal penalties as if they had been convicted initially.
Texas Appeals Court: Guilty Plea Provides “Some Evidence” of Defendant’s Guilt
When a court revokes probation in a deferred adjudication case, the defendant typically only has the right to appeal the grounds for revocation itself. That is, the defendant cannot appeal the underlying conviction on the original charge. Such appeals are ordinarily allowed only at the time deferred adjudication was imposed. There is an exception, however, for situations where the defendant can prove the “original deferred-adjudication order is void.”
One reason an order may be void is that there was “no evidence” to support the conviction. This is actually a higher burden that a defendant faces in a normal criminal appeal, where they could challenge a conviction due to insufficient evidence. In the context of a deferred adjudication proceeding, a judgment is only void if there was a “complete lack of evidence to support the conviction.”
The Texas 11th District Court of Appeals recently addressed this issue. In Schibi v. State, prosecutors charged the defendant with first-degree aggravated assault family violence after he allegedly threatened a family member with a knife. Prosecutors agreed to deferred adjudication with seven years probation.
Six years later, prosecutors moved to revoke probation and asked the court to adjudicate the defendant guilty on the first-degree felony charge. The judge granted the prosecution’s motion and sentenced the defendant to eight years in prison.
On appeal to the 11th District, the defendant argued the original deferred adjudication order was void because there was no evidence to support his conviction. The appellate court disagreed. Specifically, the Court pointed to the fact the defendant pleaded guilty in the first place when he agreed to deferred adjudication. The guilty plea itself provided “some evidence” to support the conviction, as the defendant effectively admitted to the underlying facts of the case.
Contact Pearland Criminal Defense Attorney Keith B. French Today
Deferred adjudication can provide a second chance to individuals who run afoul of the law. But it is also not a “get out of jail free” card and you need to think carefully before accepting any sort of criminal plea bargain. You should never agree to such an offer without first consulting an experienced Pearland criminal defense lawyer. Contact Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today if you need to speak with an attorney immediately.