Anyone charged with a crime in Texas is in a difficult situation. Having a conviction on your record makes many parts of life more difficult, from finding housing to finding a job. It’s understandable to want to avoid a conviction if at all possible.
Luckily, in Texas, you have a few options available to you. One option is to fight it out in court on a not-guilty plea. However, that is unreliable and may not always work in your favor.
The other option is less well-known but potentially more useful: deferred adjudication.
Why Consider Deferred Adjudication?
Deferred adjudication is one of the few methods by which you can guarantee an incident won’t be recorded as guilty on your criminal record. In essence, it’s a plea deal.
An Alternative Course of Action
The defendant pleads “guilty” or “no contest” to certain kinds of charges, and in return, the court defers actually judging them as guilty. Instead, the judge offers an alternative course of action that’s intended to help improve the community or the defendant.
This alternative course of action often includes a period of probation, performing community service, or attending educational programs related to the charge.
For example, someone charged with vandalism may be assigned community service and a course on the importance of the community.
No Conviction on Your Criminal Record
Deferred adjudication doesn’t completely remove a charge from your criminal record, but it does keep the judge from finding you guilty. Without a conviction on your record, you do not have to disclose the incident on many applications. In fact, it’s possible to get an order of nondisclosure for any charge resolved by deferred adjudication.
This legally bars public entities like the courts or police departments from providing private individuals information about the charge. It also frees you from having to disclose it yourself on job applications.
Avoids a Lengthy Trial Process
Furthermore, by applying for deferred adjudication, you can also avoid a lengthy trial process, saving yourself time and stress. In many cases, deferred adjudication is an easier and safer method of resolving a criminal charge than going to trial.
Eligibility Requirements for Texas Deferred Adjudication
While many charges are eligible for deferred adjudication in Texas, eligibility is not universal. The state requires particularly dangerous crimes to be handled through the traditional trial system.
It’s important to understand whether you’re eligible for deferred adjudication before you pin your hopes on the process. In order for a Texas resident to be eligible for deferred adjudication, they must:
- Be charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor or a felony;
- Not have a previously deferred adjudication for a crime outside of traffic tickets;
- Be eligible for community supervision; and
- Be free from ineligible charges.
How the Victim Can Affect Eligibility
There are multiple exceptions to eligibility, however. These exceptions are considered dangerous. A judge is required to take the victim of a crime into consideration when a defendant requests deferred adjudication.
For certain offenses, it is not considered in the best interests of the victim to allow the defendant to remain on probation. These crimes include:
- Misdemeanor or felony driving, boating or flying while intoxicated;
- Felony intoxicated assault;
- Felony intoxicated manslaughter;
- Any repeated sex offense, such as sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, or indecency with a child; or
- Any repeated drug offense that has been enhanced by a drug-free zone finding.
Any other crime is considered at least eligible for deferred adjudication, as long as it has not been charged in parallel with one of these crimes.
For example, if a person was charged with petty theft, they are likely eligible for deferred adjudication. Because the crime is non-violent, as long as they have not previously been convicted of the charge or received deferred adjudication, they are eligible.
Most types of assault are considered violent crimes, while petty theft is not. While the legal system has attached similar penalties to these crimes, it has also acknowledged that assault is a more targeted crime.
It is likely not in the assault victim’s best interest to release the defendant on probation. However, someone who has pled guilty to petty theft, an untargeted crime, is unlikely to cause their victim more harm upon release.
In many cases, deferred adjudication can be preferable to the process of standing trial in Texas. If you’re concerned about your criminal charged, you should consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer today. They can help you understand your options and decide whether deferred adjudication is the right choice for you.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. He has been named one of the 3 Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, recognized by Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, Avvo, and others, and he is Lead Counsel rated.