What is Deferred Adjudication for a Felony Charge?

what is deferred adjudication for a felony charge

Deferred adjudication is a legal option available to a defendant facing a criminal charge. Adjudication just means a formal judgment—in the legal context, it is the process used to determine the innocence or guilt of a defendant.

Deferred means to postpone. Deferred adjudication in Texas is an arrangement in which the defendant will plead guilty to the offense they have been charged with.

The judge will then “defer” their judgment until after the successful completion of certain terms set by the court. Typically, when all of the criteria are met, the case will be dismissed, and the judge will expunge it from the defendant’s criminal record. It is an excellent way to plea “no contest” but avoid jail time. Below, we take an in-depth look at deferred adjudication probation in the Texas criminal law system.

Who is Eligible For Deferred Adjudication?

In Texas, anyone who has been charged with a misdemeanor offense that does not involve reckless driving or the operation of a vehicle while intoxicated is eligible to pursue a deferred sentence.

Additionally, anyone facing a felony charge is also eligible as long as they have not been charged with Driving While Intoxicated, intoxication assault, intoxication manslaughter, or repeat drug or sexual offenses.

For a deferred adjudication decision to be carried out the judge needs to offer the arrangement and it needs to be agreed to by both the defendant and the prosecution. Once everyone is in agreement, the defendant pleads guilty but does not receive a sentence until the terms of the probation in Texas have been carried out.

Requirements for Deferred Adjudication

Texas law specifies that the deferred adjudication probation period cannot exceed ten years in the case of a felony. During this time, the judge may impose a fine and require mental health services to be administered.

Additionally, these criteria will need to be met:

  • Follow all laws of Texas and the United States
  • Refrain from harmful habits
  • Stay away from alcohol and illegal substances
  • Agree to random urine tests
  • Avoid people or places with bad reputations
  • Do not associate with individuals with criminal backgrounds
  • Meet with the probation officer as instructed
  • Allow the probation officer to visit your home and workplace
  • Secure and maintain employment
  • Obtain court approval before changing residence
  • Stay within the county unless authorized by the probation officer
  • Provide for your dependents
  • Fulfill all court fines and associated expenses
  • Verify your income
  • Complete a specified amount of community service hours

If you violate the terms of your probation, the judge may revoke the arrangement and proceed into an adjudication of guilt. In other words, traditional sentencing may commence. In Texas, probationary periods can be up to ten years for a felony offense.

To successfully complete the deferred adjudication or probation process, you will need to be willing to meet these terms and conditions without interruption. Failure to do so could result in a lengthier period of consequences in that you will have to go through a probation period and still potentially receive a jail sentence.

Will a Person on Deferred Adjudication Have a Criminal Record?

In Texas, your arrest and guilty plea will stay on your criminal record even after you complete your deferred adjudication or probation requirements. However, you can apply to have that aspect of your record sealed or expunged five years after the successful completion of your probation requirements. Certain escalation conditions may make you ineligible to have your record expunged.

These charges include:

  • Offenses requiring registration as a sex offender
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Capital murder
  • Injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual
  • Abandoning or endangering a child
  • Violation of a court order or conditions of bond in a family violence case
  • Any other offense involving family violence

Note that deferred adjudication will usually not interfere with your right to purchase a firearm unless the judge specifies this condition.

Is Deferred Adjudication The Same Thing as Probation?

Deferred adjudication is a type of probation, but it is not the same thing as “straight probation.” Straight probation is the arrangement that most people are thinking of when they hear the word.

It involves someone who has already been convicted of a crime having their sentencing conditions modified, provided that they are able to meet certain criteria. The key difference here is that deferred adjudication takes place prior to a conviction.

Getting the Legal Support You Need for Deferred Adjudication

If you are facing criminal charges and are interested in finding out if you qualify for deferred adjudication, it is important to enlist the services of a strong criminal defense attorney. At the Whalen Law Office, we have helped many people just like you navigate Texas law.

Contact us today for a consultation. We will discuss your case and review your options.

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.

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