In some states, deferred adjudication is available for certain criminal offenses. Deferred adjudication allows an offender to complete some form of probation, often involving counseling and/or community service, instead of going to jail. When the term of probation is complete, the charges are usually dropped, and in some states, the record of the offense disappears.

What Is the Difference Between Deferred Adjudication and a Regular Probation?

Deferred Adjudication is a special type of probation. With probation, the judgment already been completed and the terms of the probation is considered part of the sentence. A deferred adjudication is not a conviction, but it is ordered after a defendant has pled guilty or no contest to criminal charges. It allows a judge to delay a final adjudication of guilt or innocence until the probation period is over, and the offender has met all the requirements of his or her probation.

What Are the Advantages of a Deferred Adjudication?

The main advantage of a deferred adjudication is that it may not show up on your record as a criminal conviction. This can be especially useful when seeking employment as many employers will conduct background checks for criminal conduct. Other punishments associated with the crime, such as suspension of the driver’s license, will also be waived if the deferred adjudication is successful.

Are There Any Disadvantages of a Deferred Adjudication?

The most significant disadvantage of a deferred adjudication is the punishment if the individual on the adjudication violates its terms. The sentence will be much harsher if a deferred adjudication is broken because the individual will be tried for probation violation in addition to whatever crime the individual was originally accused of.

The other disadvantage is that the record of the adjudication can be used against the individual if the individual ever finds him or herself in a criminal court again. Although the deferred adjudication often expunges the record, a record of the adjudication is often preserved in court records.

How Long Is the Probation Period?

The answer really depends on the crime and the judge. Minor misdemeanors, such as traffic violations, are obviously the shortest. These usually last for a few months. More serious misdemeanors, such as assault or battery, are given probation periods of a few years. Finally, felonies can last for several years, even up to a decade.

Where Is Deferred Adjudication Used the Most?

Deferred adjudication is used most extensively in Texas.  Deferred adjudication can be risky, since a person who fails to satisfy the conditions of probation will usually find himself facing a harsher sentence that he would have if he had taken a plea bargain for jail time.

In Texas, a deferred adjudication does not eliminate the record of an offense. In order to do that, the defendant must apply for a non-disclosure order, which is pretty difficult to get in Texas, as it is only available in limited cases. Also, if the offense for which deferred adjudication was granted requires the defendant to register as a sex offender, this obligation remains.