Probation vs. Deferred Adjudication in Houston Criminal Cases
What is the difference between probation and deferred adjudication?
Probation is a final conviction. It will remain on your record forever and there is nothing an attorney can do to remove it. With probation, you are found guilty by the judge but placed on community supervision in lieu of incarceration. It may include but is not limited to monthly visits to a probation officer, supervisory fees, fines, court costs, random UA, restitution payments, classes of various types (anger management, parenting, drug abuse, etc.), and community service. If you fulfill all of your probationary requirements and do not get charged with any new cases while on probation, you will not be incarcerated.
Deferred adjudication is not a final conviction and in some cases can be sealed from the public. With deferred adjudication, you are not found guilty by the judge after completion of all requirements although, in order to receive deferred adjudication, you must begin by pleading guilty to the judge. The requirements are similar to those of probation. The judge puts off, or “defers” a finding of guilt to see whether you successfully comply with the terms of the probation. If you do, you are adjudicated (adjudged) “not guilty” and the case is listed on your record as a dismissal after the completion of deferred adjudication. Deferred adjudication is a “second chance” for first-time offenders to keep their record clear of any final convictions but is not available for all types of charges, such as DWI.
Will probation cause my license to become suspended?
Many types of cases, such as DWI, Evading Arrest in a Motor Vehicle and Drug charges, carry a license suspension with a conviction. Since Probation is a conviction, your license will become suspended if your case falls in one of these categories.
A qualified attorney will advise you of this in advance so that you can make an informed decision and be aware of the need for an Occupational or Restricted License to drive legally. Many attorneys fail to advise their clients when a conviction will cause their license to become suspended. This is no small matter as such individuals, if stopped while driving with a suspended license, will be arrested on a misdemeanor charge of DWLS.
Does probation carry any risk?
Failure to report, to pay your fees and fines, to complete your required classes or community service hours, testing positive for any controlled substance, and getting arrested for any new charge while on probation are common cause for the State’s attempting to revoke your probation.
Young people are especially susceptible to new cases while on probation due to their associations with others who place them in situations in which several are arrested at once although not all are guilty; if not all present are arrested the police often arrest the individual who is on probation.
Generally, an arrest while on probation is automatic grounds for the State to attempt to revoke your probation by the filing of a Motion to Revoke Probation or a Motion to Adjudicate Guilt. Note well: They do not wait to see whether you are found guilty of the charge. An arrest is sufficient grounds for an attempt at a revocation of probation.
If my probation is revoked can I go to jail?
Yes. Without a qualified attorney to fight your case, jail is a definite possibility after a Motion to Revoke Probation or Motion to Adjudicate Guilt is filed. See Results – Revocation of Probation for recent cases in which Mr. Haggard was able to save our clients’ probation and allow them to continue to completion rather than be sentenced to jail.
If I receive deferred adjudication, will it be on my record?
It will show on your record as a Dismissal but, as it is not a conviction, you may state on applications that you have never been convicted of a crime. We are careful to explain to our clients that the arrest, the charge, and then the Dismissal (after deferred adjudication has been successfully completed) will show on their record unless it is sealed. Many attorneys do not explain this and thus many clients are led to believe that their record will be perfectly clear after deferred adjudication.
Nevertheless, in practice many employers, landlords and especially most state and federal licensing agencies will treat a dismissal after deferred adjudication as a conviction, not caring for the fine distinctions of the law.
Will I be allowed to receive a professional license after deferred adjudication?
Some licensing agencies, such as the State Board of Nursing, have a waiting period of several years after the completion of any deferred adjudication before allowing an applicant to sit for the exam. Other licensing agencies treat a deferred adjudication as a conviction. Do not assume that, as deferred adjudication is not a conviction, all will be well with your professional plans; consult the appropriate licensing agency.
Will I be allowed to enter the armed forces after probation or deferred adjudication?
Our experience with our clients in the last several years has been that misdemeanor probation or deferred adjudication, once successfully completed, is not an obstacle to entrance into most branches of the armed forces. In the case of felony probation or deferred adjudication, it often depends on the seriousness of the underlying offense. Contact a recruiter in your branch of interest to inquire how a probation or deferred adjudication may affect your ability to enlist.