What Is Deferred Adjudication In Texas?
Deferred adjudication is a form of court-ordered supervision that allows a person to accept responsibility for a charge without a conviction or finding of guilt being placed on the record. Instead of a guilty verdict, the court places the Defendant on community supervision (commonly known as “probation”) for a certain period, with a number of requirements that must be met. Once complete, the case may be dismissed under the terms set by the court.
Under Chapter 42A of the Texas Penal Code, community supervision is available if the judge determines that it is appropriate for the Defendant and in the best interests of justice and the community. The period of community supervision under a deferred adjudication plan can last up to 2 years for misdemeanors and 10 years for qualifying felonies. Many misdemeanor offenses may be eligible for deferred adjudication.
What are the Benefits of Deferred Adjudication?
Assuming the Defendant complies with the terms of the deferred adjudication, they do not face the imposition of penalties that would be normally associated with the criminal charge. For example, jail terms, license suspensions, job losses, and other consequences of a guilty verdict can be mostly avoided through deferred adjudication.
Deferred adjudication gives Defendants a “test period” to prove themselves and demonstrate they will not re-offend. If a Defendant, their attorney, and the judge agree that the offense was simply a mistake that will not be repeated, the community supervision path makes more sense than a jail sentence.
Another benefit of deferred adjudication in Texas is that when a person eventually completes the plan and receives a discharge and dismissal, they can petition the court to seal or expunge their criminal record for the offense they’d been charged with.
Orders of nondisclosure can also be granted for qualified individuals that completed deferred adjudication. The order of nondisclosure prohibits courts and law enforcement agencies from disclosing certain criminal records to others. It also means a person may not need to disclose that criminal charge on job applications, rental applications, and other paperwork where it might be an issue (subject to some exceptions).
Downsides of Deferred Adjudication
One drawback of the deferred adjudication is that it does not wipe a criminal charge completely off a person’s record, as many people believe. It simply means that a guilty verdict was not entered if the Defendant completed deferred adjudication. The record will show that a charge was brought and later dismissed (unless it is sealed or expunged).
Further, deferred adjudication is not offered to everybody, and is usually reserved for first-time offenders and those charged with certain eligible offenses. It is only available at the pre-trial stages of a case as well. Once the case proceeds to a jury trial, the deferred adjudication option is off the table.
The other major downside of deferred adjudication through community supervision is that one mistake during the supervision process can put the Defendant right back at square one. Failure to strictly comply with the terms of community supervision will put the matter back in court, giving a judge the option to impose any penalty up to the statutory maximum. As such, a Defendant agreeing to deferred adjudication must be fully committed to the program once it starts.
When Can a Lawyer Help With Deferred Adjudication in a Texas Criminal Case?
An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can examine the details of a case and negotiate options with the prosecution and the judge. If your case appears that it may qualify for deferred adjudication, a skilled defense attorney will make the case to your judge that you are a good fit for community supervision.
Our Pearland, Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You Seek Deferred Adjudication if Your Case Qualifies
If you are facing a criminal charge, especially as a first-time offender, you will face anxiety and uncertainty about what comes next. Our Pearland criminal lawyers at Keith B. French Law will review the facts ]of your case to see whether alternatives including deferred adjudication might be right for you.