Deferred Adjudication in Texas: 5 Things To Know


Deferred Adjudication in Texas: 5 Things To Know

Many people have misconceptions about deferred adjudication probation in Texas. The most common misconception is that the offense is erased from your record if you successfully complete the deferred probation period. This belief is incorrect.

#1. No Automatic Expunction After Deferred Adjudication in Texas 

In Texas, deferred adjudication does not imply a sentence, and thus, the defendant escapes the present and future effects of a conviction, such as job loss, suspension of driving license, or exclusion from public assistance programs. Above all, it saves from punishment and penalties.

However, deferred adjudication in Texas does not make one eligible for automatic expungement of records. The defendant is still charged in public records, though he is not found guilty in the court. So, his records will show charges without any mention of the conviction.

A defendant, who succeeds in getting a deferred adjudication ruling, requires to file for non-disclosure of his records once the waiting period is over. This seals any record mentioning charges against him and effectively bars private entities from accessing them. Get in touch with an expert Houston criminal defense attorney to know the expungement and non-disclosure process.

#2. Deferred Adjudication in Texas is A “Test” Period

Probation following deferred adjudication is a trial period for an offender. Thus, probation is a test for an offender to allow him a chance to reform himself. Though the guilt is established, he was not penalized and the non-custodial alternative is extended to allow him a chance to avoid punishment. 

The defendant is permitted to stay in the community but under the supervision of the court or public officials for a specific period, up to two years in case of misdemeanors and up to 10 years if charged with a felony. Probation comes with conditions. The defendant has to avoid taking drugs and undergo regular tests for the same. He has to show good behavior and stay away from any crime. The court may also add community services.

Any violation of probation conditions results in the revocation of the deferred adjudication.  The defendant has to face the adjudication and undergo the original punishment prescribed for the charges against him. 

Talk to a Houston criminal defense attorney to know about potential deferred adjudication benefits and drawbacks.

#3. Deferred Adjudication Vs Straight Probation in Texas

In Texas, probation is known as community supervision. It is of two types.

Deferred adjudication is granted without a formal conviction. The offender pleads guilty and got a “test period.” The conviction is deferred and finally dismissed. Any violation leads to conviction and announcement of the punishment.

But, in regular or straight probation, there is conviction following a jury trial or plea. The defendant has to serve community supervision as part of the sentence. The court fixes the potential punishment at the time of pronouncing the probation.    

Violation when on deferred adjudication may result in maximum punishment. For example, if a crime attracts 2 to 5 years of imprisonment, the court may punish the violation with 5 years of jail. But in the case of straight probation, the defendant makes a plea for a 3-year sentence and is probated for 6 years. He has to spend 3 years in jail for violating conditions.

There is no option of expunction or non-disclosure for straight probation. 

#4. No Deferred Adjudication in Texas If Trial Starts 

Deferred adjudication offers a respite from conviction and thus, is a better choice for many. It also allows sealing of the charges and keeping them out of the private reach. However, it is not easier for a second-time offender to convince the court to agree on a deferred plea. Also, once the trial starts, the defendant cannot petition for deferred adjudication. The jury is not empowered to grant such a punishment. To know the right time for a plea bargain and petition for a deferred conviction, consult a Houston criminal defense attorney.

#5. How To End Deferred Adjudication in Texas

Successful completion of a deferred adjudication saves you from a conviction. You can petition to seal the records and claim that you have never been charged. However, for immigration purposes, deferred adjudication is considered as equal to conviction, as this the usual practice adopted in the case of federal laws. 

Community supervision is an essential part of deferred adjudication in Texas. It ends with your successful completion of the probation. You have another alternative under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to end it. The state law allows a defendant to seek the dismissal of the community supervision after completing one-third or two years (whichever is less) of the term probated. But any such dismissal does not allow an application for expunction or non-disclosure of charges. For more clarity, contact an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney.

#6. Practical Problems of Deferred Adjudication in Texas

 Criminal records are often sold by the counties and the state to private background check companies. These companies often misreport criminal histories. For example, they may incorrectly report a completed deferred or a set-aside as a conviction. Some employers may disqualify an applicant for a conviction.


A deferred sentence will still be on your criminal history after you complete the probation period. To erase the record and be able to deny the arrest, you must file a petition for non-disclosure.

Furthermore, some deferred sentences are ineligible for Non-Disclosure. For example, any crime involving family violence is ineligible for non-disclosure. So, if you take deferred adjudication for a Class A assault that involves family violence, that sentence will stay on your criminal history forever.

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Finally, some deferred sentences require a waiting period before the petition for non-disclosure can be filed. For example, some misdemeanors like assault or unlawfully carrying a weapon require a two year waiting period before the petition can be filed. That is, you must wait two years after completing your deferred probation before attempting to clear your record. For felonies, the waiting period is five years (as of 9-1-2005).

Contact us at Zavala Texas Law

Many lawyers convince clients to take deferred sentences by arguing that the record will eventually be sealed. Remember that some offenses can never be sealed, and some offenses require the waiting period. So while deferred adjudication is often a good deal, sometimes you might be better off fighting the charge and proving your innocence.

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