Deferred adjudication is a type of probation that may be available to a defendant in a criminal case when they plead “guilty” or “no contest.” When a defendant receives deferred adjudication, they are placed on probation for a specified amount of time.
Ultimately, the defendant’s criminal case is dismissed when they successfully complete the deferred adjudication. However, the defendant must still take specific steps to seal the record to remove it from their criminal record.
What is Deferred Adjudication?
Probation is known as community supervision in Texas. State law recognizes two types of community supervision:
- regular community supervision
- deferred adjudication
If the defendant receives community supervision, they can avoid going to jail or prison to serve their sentence. Instead, the defendant is permitted to live and work in the community. For misdemeanors, the defendant may be placed on community supervision for up to two years. For felonies, the maximum community supervision term is 10 years.
If a defendant who pleads guilty or no contest receives deferred adjudication and then successfully completes the term, they are not considered to have been convicted.
Many defendants in criminal cases are eligible for deferred adjudication as a more favorable form of punishment than serving time in jail or prison.
What Are the Conditions of Deferred Adjudication?
If you receive deferred adjudication, the judge will impose conditions on the community supervision. One of the conditions is not to commit other crimes during the community supervision term.
If you do commit a criminal offense while being placed on deferred adjudication or violate other terms of the supervision, the judge will most likely:
- revoke the probation;
- find you guilty of the crime for which you received deferred adjudication; and
- put you in jail or prison to serve your sentence.
Who Can Receive Deferred Adjudication in Texas?
In many criminal cases, a deferred adjudication is an option available to first-time offenders with no criminal record. Deferred adjudication is preferable to regular community supervision because the defendant will not have a conviction if they successfully complete the term.
While a deferred adjudication will still appear on your criminal record, it can be sealed by filing a petition for an order of non-disclosure. However, not all criminal offenses are eligible for a non-disclosure.
You can only receive deferred adjudication if you plead “guilty” or “no contest.” If you take your case to trial, deferred adjudication may no longer be an option for you.
What’s the Difference Between Deferred Adjudication and Regular Community Supervision?
While the terms “deferred adjudication” and “regular community supervision” are often used interchangeably, there are three differences between the two types of probation in Texas:
- If the defendant successfully completes deferred adjudication, their criminal case will not result in a conviction. Regular community supervision, on the other hand, will usually lead to a conviction that cannot be expunged or sealed.
- The defendant can only receive deferred adjudication if they plead guilty or no contest without taking their case to trial. Regular community supervision may still be an option if the defendant’s case goes to trial.
- If the judge revokes regular community supervision because the defendant violates the conditions of probation, the maximum sentence will most likely not be the statutory maximum. The same cannot be said about deferred adjudication.
For example, let's say that you are placed on regular community supervision for an offense punishable from one to five years in jail. The punishment is two years in jail, probated for four. If the defendant violates the terms of the probation and regular community supervision is revoked by the judge, the defendant can face up to two years in jail. If the defendant was on deferred adjudication, they could face the statutory maximum term of imprisonment after the revocation.
How to End Community Supervision in Texas?
In Texas, there are two ways to end regular community supervision:
Complete the term of regular community supervision; or
Petition the court to get the charges dismissed and set aside the indictment after completing the lesser of one-third or two years of the sentence.
If the court approves the defendant’s petition to set aside the indictment, the defendant will not have a criminal conviction on their record. On the other hand, the defendant who finishes the regular community supervision term would have a conviction.
Will Deferred Adjudication Disappear from My Criminal Record When I Complete the Term?
Many people mistakenly believe that deferred adjudication will automatically disappear from their criminal record once they complete the term. However, that is not the case.
Even if you complete the probation period, the deferred adjudication will show up on your criminal record. The only way to get rid of the deferred adjudication from your record is to file a petition for an order of non-disclosure.
However, not all deferred adjudication sentences are eligible for non-disclosure in Texas. If you receive deferred adjudication for a criminal offense that is not eligible for non-disclosure, the sentence will remain on your criminal record forever.
Keep in mind that some deferred adjudications have a mandatory waiting period. In other words, the defendant must wait a specific number of years before they are permitted to file a petition for an order of non-disclosure. The waiting period begins once you complete the deferred adjudication term.
Contact a Lawyer
If you or your loved one has been arrested on suspicion of a crime, it is essential to contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer to explore your options.
Speak with our knowledgeable attorneys at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to review your unique situation and determine whether or not you should plead “guilty” or “no contest” to receive deferred adjudication, or you can fight the charges by pleading "not guilty."
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