Deferred Probation vs. Straight Probation

Happy Friday, everybody. Hope that you’re all having a really good week. This week, wanted to touch on another one of these misunderstood concepts that I end up answering a lot of questions to clients about as we work through the criminal process, and that’s the difference between the two types of probation you can receive in a plea agreement for a criminal case. So when you are charged with a criminal offense and you reach an agreement or you get sentenced by a jury or the judge, your jail sentence or your time in prison can be probated for a certain amount of time, any time that happens after you’re convicted. So if a jury or a judge finds you guilty, or you enter a plea of guilty and the judge finds you guilty, but probates your sentence, that’s what we know of as probation. When people talk about getting probation for a criminal offense, that’s what they’re talking about.

Regular probation, or as we call it here in Texas, straight probation means that a jail sentence has been suspended for a specific amount of time, usually a number of months or years. Depending on the offense, it can go up to 10 years long. But it means that you won’t go to jail so long as you abide by the rules and conditions of probation for that set amount of time. Now, the other type of probation that a jury cannot give to you, but a judge can, whether it’s through a plea agreement or through an open plea or a sentencing by a judge is called deferred adjudication probation. Now, for all intents and purposes to the individual, while they’re going through it is the exact same as straight probation. There are rules you have to follow. There are conditions you must meet. If you break any of those, you could find yourself in trouble.

The biggest difference is with deferred adjudication, what that means under the law is the judge is basically saying, “Look, I have enough evidence where I could find you guilty. However, I’m going to defer or put off that finding for a specific amount of time. Should you successfully complete that probationary period rather than finding you guilty, I’m going to dismiss this case against you and the matter will be considered closed.” So the biggest benefit of deferred adjudication is if you successfully complete your probationary term, the case is dismissed and you’re not convicted of it. So you don’t have a criminal conviction on your record. So it’s important if you or anybody that you know is going through a criminal case and they say there’s an offer on the table for probation.

It’s very important that you understand exactly what type of probation they’re talking about because it has a huge, huge impact later on down the line, especially if it’s for a felony. Because a straight probation on a felony carries with it everything that a felony conviction carries. So no guns, no voting, no juries, nothing. But if it’s deferred adjudication and they can successfully complete it, they don’t lose any of those constitutional protections because it’s not a felony conviction on their record. So hope this was helpful. Hope you learned something. As always, if you have any questions or anything you want to discuss, feel free to reach out. I’m available by phone, email, or on our website at I look forward to connecting with some of you later. However, have a great weekend, and I will see you next week. Stay safe.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google