What Is Deferred Adjudication?

Updated May 7, 2024
9 min read
Title "What Is Deferred Adjudication?", paper bundle, pen, envelope, suitcase, building, US flag, Themis

When someone is charged with a crime, one option they can pursue is deferred adjudication. But what is deferred adjudication, and how does it work? This guide will cover all you need to know, including a deferred adjudication definition, adjudication probation, and answers to commonly asked questions.

What Does Deferred Adjudication Mean?

Let’s begin with a clear deferred adjudication meaning so you know what this term refers to. Deferred adjudication implies a delay of judgment; “deferred” means postponed or delayed, while “adjudication” refers to a legal ruling or decision. The deferred adjudication meaning is a chance for a defendant to prove that they have learned from their mistakes and changed their behavior. Similar to probation, it involves the person having to complete various requirements. If they’re successful, they can have the relevant conviction removed from their record and continue their regular life.

The Difference Between Probation and Deferred Adjudication

Deferred adjudication is a legal alternative to probation. While probation remains on your criminal record, deferred adjudication comes with the option of being removed from your criminal record. Rather than a judge deciding immediately that you are on probation as part of your conviction, in the deferred adjudication definition, the judge postpones judgment until they have seen whether or not you can follow through with the rules of your deferred adjudication.

When you use deferred adjudication instead of probation, you enter into a probation period during which you are given a list of what you have to do or not do, and for how long. Instead of an immediate criminal conviction, deferred adjudication in Texas or other states allows you to enter into community supervision. Your ability to use this law is based on your criminal case and history. It is something often reserved for first-time offenders, but this is based on the court and the judge. 

Deferred adjudication and the deferred probation meaning are very similar but how they differ is incredibly important for your situation.

What is deferred probation?

Probation is part of your sentencing that includes terms such as not leaving your state, checking in with a probation officer every week, attending certain classes, and doing all of this for a predetermined time, usually one or three years. Probation remains on your permanent record, so employers and potential landlords will be able to see it when they conduct background checks. They may ask you to sign a background check authorization form, a critical legal document for lease and employment verification.

The terms of your probation are final, and these terms are an official part of your conviction, so they are not likely to be changed, and failure to follow through with these conditions can result in secondary criminal charges and further punishment.

What is a deferred felony?

Deferred adjudication is a type of conviction or punishment for a crime. If you were accused of a felony, deferred adjudication will help you avoid imprisonment; instead, you are released into your community. As such, you serve your punishment time within your community.


There are several rules associated with felony, deferred adjudication, such as where you can and cannot travel, how often you must check-in, and other classes or activities in which you must participate for a specific time. The charges you face for your criminal activity are contingent upon completing the terms of your deferred adjudication. If you complete the terms successfully, no other charges go on your record, and you can have the deferred adjudication itself removed. However, if you fail to meet the terms of the deferred adjudication, then you face even higher charges for your crimes than you did initially.

Why should I choose deferred adjudication over probation?

Deferred adjudication can be a better option for defendants who are sure they can adhere to the requirements. This enables the defendant to avoid prison and return to normal life. Unlike probation, deferred adjudication will not remain on your permanent record. First-time offenders who want to avoid convictions on their records may benefit from this option. Otherwise, they won’t be able to obtain employment in the future. However, if the defendant feels unsure regarding the requirements, they’d better not enter deferred adjudication, which can result in a worse sentence.

How Long Does Deferred Adjudication Last?


The length of deferred adjudication is based entirely on the specific situation. It can be a very lengthy process, usually between 1 and 3 years, similar to probation. A judge will likely decide in conjunction with your attorney the length of the adjudication.

What Happens When You Complete Deferred Adjudication?

Usually, once you’ve completed deferred adjudication and met the relevant requirements, the judge will allow you to go free with a clean record. The specific requirements may vary from case to case, including things like attending an educational course or abstaining from using certain substances. In some cases, you may still have criminal charges on your record, but you might be able to file to have them expunged.

Is Deferred Adjudication a Conviction?

Deferred adjudication is a plea deal in which a defendant accepts to complete specific requirements as an alternative to other punishments, like jail time. Upon completing those requirements, the defendant will often avoid any conviction on their permanent record and may have their case dismissed entirely. However, the specifics of each case can vary, and there are situations in which the original criminal charges will still appear on your record. In addition, if you fail to meet the requirements of the deferred adjudication, it can become a conviction.


There are many situations where you might prefer deferred adjudication, especially if you are likely to complete the terms of your adjudication and file the petition to have it removed from your record. Deferred adjudication is a good opportunity for people who do not want a permanent mark on their criminal record like what occurs in probation. Within the attorney-client relationship, you can talk to a law firm about legal advice concerning deferred adjudication. An attorney can answer questions pertaining to your situation and assess the likelihood of both getting it, and whether it is the right option for you. 

Legal Disclaimer

Please note that Lawrina does not provide any legal services. The information on Lawrina’s Site and its downloadable content, including legal articles and templates, shall not be considered legal advice and is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, and up-to-date. If you require legal advice on your issue, we recommend you contact a qualified attorney licensed in your state. You personally assume full responsibility for any consequences, damages, and costs associated with your use of any content of Lawrina Services available on Lawrina’s Site. 

By using Lawrina’s Site you agree with mentioned above and give your irrevocable consent to comply with and to be bound by the provisions of Lawrina Service terms. 

Also Read

Accessory to Murder: What Does It Mean?
Murder charges are very serious. Equally serious are accessory to murder charges. An accessory to murder is anyone who helps someone commit murder or helps that person after the party commits a murder. This can include giving someone a boat or vehicle in which to escape, giving them money to help them get away, hiding the murder weapon, and much more. What Is Accessory to Murder? Accessory to murder is a criminal act that has to do with murder charges. The accessory to murder definition concerns
Bench Warrant in Florida: Understanding How It Works
What is a bench warrant in Florida? How do you find out if you have a bench warrant? And what can you do about it? We answer all your questions about Florida bench warrants here, from different types of warrants to how to find out if one has been made in your name, as well as what to do (and not do) when a bench warrant has been issued for you. Bench Warrants vs Arrest Warrants What is a bench warrant meaning in Florida? And are all warrants the same? No, there are actually two different kinds o
Civil Case vs. Criminal Case: What’s the Difference?
According to U.S. law, there are two different types of legal cases: civil cases and criminal cases. But how is a civil case different from a criminal case? Broadly speaking, the state initiates a criminal case, which deals with issues that affect society. A business or individual seeking financial compensation initiates a civil case. However, there are many more differences between civil vs criminal cases that are important to understand. This guide will explain the difference between a civil a
Civil Contempt vs. Criminal Contempt: What Is the Difference?
Understanding the law often requires distinguishing between similar legal terms with different meanings. Contempt of court meaning is a prime example. The concept may seem straightforward, but it significantly differs when it is divided into a civil and criminal contempt. Both are tools in the judiciary's arsenal to enforce orders and maintain respect for the legal process, yet they serve different purposes, have distinctive procedures, and lead to separate outcomes. This guide will set things c
Complete Guide on How to Start a Class Action Lawsuit
Introduction When a group of people has the same issues against the same defendant, usually a company that operates on a massive scale, they can come together and file one lawsuit. Whether you've suffered a breach of contract, fallen victim to discriminatory employment practices, or endured the consequences of a falsely advertised product, understanding class action lawsuits could be the first step toward your rightful compensation. If you wonder, "How do I file a class action lawsuit?" this gui
Class X Felony: Ultimate Legal Guide
Crimes that carry severe consequences are typically designated into one of two categories: misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors are less severe crimes, while felonies are significantly more serious. Within the category of felony charges, there are various criminal charges an individual might face based on the severity of the felony. The most severe are class X felonies. But what is a class X felony in detail? In most states, a crime becomes much more severe if there is a weapon involved. When
Conspiracy Charges Sentences
In criminal law, criminal conspiracy occurs when two or more people come together and create a plan to carry out a criminal offense. To commit a conspiracy charge in Texas, the crime itself does not necessarily need to have taken place, rather there needs to be an intention for it to happen, and at least one party must commit an overt act in furtherance of the crime. For example, purchasing a gun may not be considered a criminal conspiracy Texas, but if the gun was purchased for use in a planned
Detained vs. Arrested: What’s the Difference?
In legal terms, there are significant differences between being convicted vs detained. Common law dictates that investigatory detention refers to holding someone while a suspicious situation is being checked out. When the detention continues beyond a specific time limit, it can be considered an arrest. Whereas, in comparison, an arrest is usually made under the statutory authority found in Title 18 of the United States Code and its supplemental terms, in which an individual may be held for a pro
All Guides
      Consumer Protection Law
      Criminal Law
        Accessory to Murder: What Does It Mean?
        Bench Warrant in Florida: Understanding How It Works
        Civil Case vs. Criminal Case: What’s the Difference?
        Civil Contempt vs. Criminal Contempt: What Is the Difference?
        Class X Felony: Ultimate Legal Guide
        Complete Guide on How to Start a Class Action Lawsuit
        Conspiracy Charges Sentences
        Detained vs. Arrested: What’s the Difference?
        Dismissal vs. Expungement: What Is the Difference?
        Extortion vs. Coercion: What's the Difference?
        Florida Withhold of Adjudication
        How Long Does a Felony Stay on Record?
        How to Charge Someone With Trespassing
        How to Sue Someone: Step-by-Step Guide
        Indiana Self-Defense Laws
        Infraction vs. Misdemeanor: What’s the Difference?
        Intro to Second Degree Assault
        Probation Violation in Virginia
        Probation vs Parole: What Is the Difference?
        Public Intoxication in Texas
        Stand Your Ground Law in Georgia
        Stun Gun Laws by State: The Legal Guide
        The Difference Between Direct Examination and Cross-Examination
        The Difference Between First, Second, and Third-Degree Murders
        The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter
        Theft by Deception: Laws & Legal Definition
        What Happens at a Plea Hearing: All You Need to Know
        What Happens at an Arraignment?
        What Is a Bail Bond and How Does It Work?
        What Is a Motion to Dismiss? Understanding Legal Terms
        What Is Deferred Adjudication?
        What Is Guilty By Association in Law?
        What Is House Arrest & How Does It Work?
        What Is Simple Assault?
        What Is the Difference Between Burglary and Larceny?
      Estate Planning Law
      Family Law
      Immigration Law
    Real Estate

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I qualify for deferred adjudication?

This will depend on your case. Deferred adjudication is commonly offered to first-time offenders, but even those with some criminal past could be eligible. The judge in court decides whether or not a person qualifies for deferred adjudication.

What is felony deferred adjudication?

A deferred felony is a punishment or plea deal offered to a defendant. The deferred adjudication process requires the person to demonstrate that he or she has learned from his or her mistakes, which will help him or her avoid prison or other sentences.

What is deferred adjudication of guilt?

The deferred adjudication of guilt refers to the process in which a judge will agree to delay their judgment and sentencing of a defendant. The defendant will be given a period to complete certain requirements. If they succeed in their deferred adjudication of guilt, the case will usually be dismissed, and the charges dropped, without any conviction.