Understanding Deferred Adjudication in Texas
Getting a criminal conviction is a life-changing thing. The sentence itself is a serious matter. Convictions, no matter what they are for, can make it much harder for a person to get a job. They can also make it harder to get certain benefits from the government, and may even limit your ability to vote and exercise other rights. It can be possible to avoid the immediate consequences of a conviction by seeking a deferred adjudication, however, this is not always available. In Texas, some criminal cases are eligible for this kind of probationary sentence.
When Can Someone Get Deferred Adjudication
Deferred Adjudication is spelled out in Section 42A, subchapter C of the Code of Criminal Procedure for Texas. It is important to note that no defendant has the ‘right’ to deferred adjudication. This is something that is granted at the judge’s discretion, and they will do so only if they believe that the judgment would be in the best interest of society.
Deferred adjudication is something that is offered only if the defendant initially enters a ‘no contest’ plea or a guilty plea. The defendant is, therefore, foregoing their right to have a trial by jury. Instead of being heard by a jury, the judge will conduct a separate hearing, and then make their own determination as to whether the prosecution has supplied enough evidence to substantiate that the defendant is guilty. When the judge has made a decision, the court can then defer further proceedings, but without entering a guilty judgment.
If the court decides to do this, then they suspend the case for a given period of time, and the defendant is considered on probation for that time. The duration of the suspension will depend on the facts of the case and also the classification of the crime.
Someone accused of a felony may see a suspension of up to ten years. Misdemeanor cases can see a probation of up to two years, but certain sex-related crimes such as aggravated sexual assault, or indecency involving a child, will see a probationary period of at least five years. The law forbids deferred adjudication for some specific types of crime – including drunk driving.
Are There Conditions of the Probation
The court will set terms for the probation and the defendant must comply with them. Violation of the probation, even unintentionally, may be deemed grounds to revoke the community supervision, and result in the original criminal charge being made. This means that the defendant once again faces the prospect of prison, and having a criminal conviction on their record.
The terms of the probation or community supervision order will vary from case to case. The courts provide the defendant with a detailed list of the conditions that they must abide by. There are some typical conditions which are applied in Texas, however:
- Do not commit further crimes under federal or state law.
- Do not consume alcohol or use illegal drugs (urine testing may be called upon at any time).
- Do not associate with disreputable or harmful characters or places.
- Report to the probation officer on a specified timescale.
- Allow the probation officer to visit your workplace or home.
- Maintain employment, and report changes in your work situation to your probation officer promptly.
- Do not move outside of your home county without first obtaining permission from the probation officer.
- Pay fines or fees, such as restitution to the victim of your crime.
- Meet child support obligations.
Failure to follow those conditions could lead to the prosecution filing a petition to bring an end to the deferred adjudication. If this happens, then the original crime will be judged immediately and a criminal conviction may follow. The defendant is entitled to a hearing before a judge before the deferred adjudication is brought to an end. This is not a criminal trial, however, and instead of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, the prosecution is required to show that a violation occurred by a much lower standard, which is called ‘ a preponderance of evidence’. This means that it is hard to avoid the deferred adjudication being brought to an end, so it is vital to co-operate with probation officers and follow the rules.