By Collin County Criminal Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal
Deferred adjudication in Texas is where a person charged with an offense pleads guilty or no contest and rather than being found guilty, the judge defers a finding of guilty while the accused is placed on what amounts to probation.
If the person successfully completes deferred, they are never “convicted” of the offense. Most people are familiar with deferred because of a traffic offense or another class c misdemeanor. Most class c deferred adjudications do make you eligible for expunction. You are not eligible for expunction for class b misdemeanors or above in Texas, meaning your criminal record will never be completely erased. You may be eligible for a petition for non-disclosure which is much different.
It is a dangerous, dangerous, assumption for anyone to make that if they plead guilty and accept deferred that the case merely vanishes or goes away. Here is an interesting web site about deferred adjudication. I’m not personally familiar with this group, but they seem to have some interesting information and statistics about deferred.
I’m not always convinced deferred is a terrible thing, but sometimes deferred can even be the devil’s candy… meaning that it sounds very tempting but it only begins your nightmare.
If you violate deferred, then you’re subject to punishment for the entire punishment range. What this means, is that even though you get deferred on a state jail felony (that has a maximum punishment of 2 years jail — as an example), you may at first just have to report to a probation officer and do probation — but if you violate your probation — you can’t go back and fight the underlying case AND you are still subject to doing up to the entire 2 years in jail.
The federal government may treat a Texas deferred as a conviction. Also, there are many Texas statutes and laws which simply don’t give you any benefit above and beyond a conviction. Just as a small example, where a juvenile gets multiple dui deferred adjudications, they can later be enhanced as if they were convictions. There are plenty of other criminal statutes in Texas that treat deferred like a conviction.
If you’re about to accept deferred adjudication in a Texas Court, you should make sure to specifically know exactly what it is that you’re getting into by speaking with your
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For specific legal advice, you should always consult an attorney.