Understanding Deferred Adjudication In Texas

There are few things more misunderstood in the world of criminal justice than Deferred Adjudication (note that there is no "f" in "adjudication"). The philosophy behind deferred adjudication is that society benefits if more people retain the ability to obtain good jobs and be productive in those jobs. Therefore, a deferred adjudication probation presents the opportunity to keep a criminal conviction off of your permanent criminal history.

At Sutton Milam & Fanning in Waco, Texas, we can walk you through the process step by step. Let our experienced attorneys be your guides and advocates from day one. Call 254-633-3048.

After Probation, Your Case Is Dismissed And You're Not Considered Guilty

The way it works is that a person actually enters a plea of guilty before the court. The judge will declare, "I find that there is enough evidence to establish your guilt, but I am not going to find you guilty at this time." He or she does this because, if you successfully complete probation, then you are never found guilty and the case is ultimately dismissed.

The Downside Of Deferred Adjudication

The bad part of deferred adjudication is that there is no cap (except for the statutory maximum, of course) on the punishment to which the judge can sentence you if you are subsequently adjudicated and your probation is revoked. For instance, if you are on deferred probation for a second-degree felony, then it simply takes one failed drug test, one missed curfew or getting one hour behind in your community service hours to give the judge to right to sentence you to 20 years.

Now, staying with this example, he or she would also have the discretion to sentence you to the minimum of two years. But the fact is that your fate would rest entirely in the hands of the judge. So before entering into a deferred probation, it is a good idea to make sure you are committed to the idea.

You Can Legally Tell Potential Employers That You Were Never Arrested

Now after you complete the deferred adjudication, you may be able to file what is called a Motion for Non-Disclosure. This motion works in a similar fashion as when a juvenile is having his or her records sealed. The event does not "come off" your record completely like with an expunction, but it does make it impossible for the general public to view it.

So who are those folks? Well, private citizens are not supposed to see that you were arrested and had your case dismissed pursuant to successfully completing a deferred probation. This is very helpful when it comes to being hired at a private company.

However, law enforcement and any other state agencies would have access to the information. So you could conceivably go to a job interview and legally deny you were ever arrested, but then get pulled over for speeding on the way home by an officer to whom you'd better tell all about the arrest.

If you plan to work in a profession such as teaching or counseling or practicing law or any other field that is overseen by a state board, a Motion for Non-Disclosure is not going to help you. The board, like the police officer, would have access to that information.

A Motion For Non-Disclosure May Or May Not Be Possible

Now there can be different rules regarding Motions for Non-Disclosure on different charges. For example, for the offense of Assault Family Violence, one may not file a Motion for Non-Disclosure. Our state legislature has ruled that family violence is one offense we should not let someone hide. Also, on some felony charges, there are waiting periods of differing amounts of time. We can help answer those questions for you on a case-by-case basis.

Privacy Isn't Guaranteed, But Deferred Adjudication Is Still Helpful

In today's world of blogs, posts and rants, it is impossible to guarantee that information about your case is not floating around somewhere in cyber space, so there is no guarantee that accompanies a deferred probation and/or a Motion for Non-Disclosure.

But deferred adjudication can be helpful for other reasons as well. It can help you avoid certain collateral consequences that are triggered by a conviction. For instance, convictions for the offenses of Possession of Marijuana and Driving While License Invalid result in a driver's license suspension. So a deferred on either charge can help you keep driving legally.

Learn more by calling our Waco lawyers at 254-633-3048 or contacting us online for a free consultation.