Florida Withhold of Adjudication

Updated May 3, 2024
Title "Florida Withhold of Adjudication"; Florida flag, Themis, papers, laptop, LAW books, handcuffs

In Florida, a verdict of guilt does not necessarily result in an immediate conviction. Unlike federal courts across the US, Florida judges possess the discretion to keep the adjudication withheld process even when a defendant has entered a guilty plea or has been adjudged guilty in court.

Moreover, when adjudication is suspended, it offers the accused an opportunity for redemption by avoiding a criminal sentence and the consequent stigma of a formal conviction record. Unless there is an opportunity to achieve a dismissal or discharge of criminal charges, opting for an adjudication withheld often represents a more favorable resolution for defendants involved in criminal proceedings.

However, these suspended adjudications, or withhold adjudication Florida, are subject to specific eligibility requirements and are inherently constrained by limits. In this guide, we dive into the adjudication withheld meaning, the advantages, restrictions, and common inquiries related to this legal matter.

What Does Withheld Adjudication Mean?

In a criminal case, a disposition means the judge’s determination on what should happen next. Whenever someone receives the disposition, the adjudication withheld meaning includes two key things: 

  1. Unlike the disposition of charges dismissed, withholding an adjudication means the court has found the defendant guilty of an offense.

  2. Instead of formally convicting the defendant and imposing a criminal penalty, the judge places the defendant on probation and/or imposing a fine.

According to the Florida Statute 948.04, the defendant is released from probation and is not liable for the offense for which he or she was put on probation upon terminating the probation period. Consequently, after the probation is complete and/or the fines are paid, there will be no further conviction or penalty.

For the defendant in the criminal case, to withhold adjudication Florida is the second best option to having the charges dismissed or dropped. While the defendant is still found guilty, there is no adjudication of guilt and no conviction. Such an outcome provides the defendant with multiple benefits and advantages compared to being found guilty of a crime while still contingent on certain limitations.

When Is Florida Adjudication Withheld by Judges?

Most often, the best chances to get a withhold of adjudication are with first-time offenders found or pled guilty of a misdemeanor or minor felony. Still, there are possibilities to have the Florida adjudication withheld several times for repeated offenses.

The Florida Statute 948.01 gives the judge the authority to withhold adjudication of guilt if it appears that the defendant is not likely to commit a criminal offense. At the same time, the law is specific about cases where the adjudication of guilt cannot be withheld under any circumstances. Thus, according to the Statute 775.08435, those found guilty of capital, life, and first-degree felony are ineligible for withholds.

Statute 775.08435 includes a special provision for withholding adjudication of second and third-degree felony offenses. The second-degree felony can be withheld only if either one or two of the following conditions are met:

  1. The prosecuting attorney requests withholding adjudication of guilt, and

  2. The court justifies withholding adjudication based on mitigating factors listed in Statute 921.0026, including but not limited to defendant showing remorse, youthful offenders, defendant requiring specialized treatment and other circumstances.

Additionally, the defendant should not have a prior withhold for the same transaction as the current offense to be eligible for withhold.

Recently, the amendments to the Florida Statutes have introduced the same limitation on the power of judges to provide withholds for the third-degree felony of domestic violence and other third-degree felony offenses where the defendant already had a withhold.

Last but not least, criminal law specifically excludes the authority of judges to withhold adjudication for driving under the influence (DUI). For this reason, defendants found or pleaded guilty in a DUI case will be adjudicated guilty without a chance to get a withhold.

What Are the Benefits of Adjudication of Guilt Withheld?

Getting adjudication withheld presents a defendant with multiple benefits and is a sought-after outcome when there is no opportunity to have the charges dropped or dismissed. Without a formal criminal conviction, the defendant can avoid multiple negative consequences and impact on their employment opportunities, civil and other rights.

Employment opportunities

While Florida is an “at-will” state where employers can dismiss their staff practically for no reason with an at-will employment agreement, having a formal conviction and/or a criminal record can be particularly burdensome for employees. In addition, many professionals, for example, healthcare workers, can lose their license if convicted of a crime.

But can you get a job with withheld adjudication instead? Yes, because it excludes the chances of losing a professional license and minimizes negative consequences with existing employers. Meanwhile, when someone looking for a job has withheld adjudication, they can honestly answer “no” to the question if they were ever convicted.

Civil rights

In Florida, convicted felons are deprived of several civil rights, which include the right to vote, serve on a jury or hold a public office. However, when defendants receive withhold of adjudication, they avoid these consequences even when found guilty of the offense. If you wonder ‘does adjudication withheld show up on background checks?’, the answer is no.

For instance, retaining the right to vote enables individuals to contribute to political processes and speak up in the governance of their community. Service on a jury preserves a person's right to participate in the justice system and to contribute to fair trial processes.

Possessing arms or amunition

Can you own a gun with a withhold of adjudication? According to the Florida Statute 790.23, a person convicted of a felony cannot own or have in their care, custody, possession, or control any firearm, ammunition, electric weapons or device or carry a concealed weapon, including a tear gas gun or a chemical weapon. Meanwhile, the defendants may retain the right to a firearm by having adjudication withheld, since they were not formally convicted.

Other rights

When someone gets a withhold of adjudication, they avoid other negative consequences of conviction, such as suspension of driving license for drug offenses, accumulating driver’s points or losing their public benefits. In addition, they can deny conviction under oath, while the lawyer examining them as witnesses cannot even ask about their conviction.

Social stability

Having a formal criminal conviction leads to a number of other undesirable social consequences. It can lead to strained relationships with neighbors, social circle and the family, decreasing the social stability of defendants. Meanwhile, withhold of adjudication helps to minimize the negative effect of criminal history and mitigate these negative consequences.

What Are the Limitations of Adjudication Withholds?

Although having the adjudication withheld is always a desirable option to being convicted of a crime, it comes with its own limitations. How long does adjudication withheld stay on record? Some charges, like DUI, cannot be withheld at all so they will remain on your criminal record. Other types of convictions cannot be sealed in your criminal records and will be visible in the adjudication withheld background check. Other limitations may apply as well.

Some offenses cannot be sealed

Florida law does not allow expunging or erasing withholds of adjudication from criminal record, which means they can only be sealed. At the same time, many types of offenses are ineligible for court-ordering sealing.

Specifically, Florida law doesn’t allow sealing withholds of adjudication in cases of:

  • Aggravated assault;
  • Assault or battery;
  • Drug trafficking;
  • Felony involving domestic violence;
  • Fraud;
  • Sexual misconduct;
  • Stalking.

Such offenses will appear on the defendant’s criminal record even if the conviction was withheld, which can further result in negative consequences for employment, housing, and other important life aspects.

Registration of felony and sex crimes

Irrespective of whether adjudication is withheld, those found guilty of a felony must register as felons, according to Florida Statute 775.13, within 48 hours after entering any county, be fingerprinted, photographed and provide further details according to the law. Similarly, sex offenders have to register, according to Florida Statute 943.9435, regardless of whether the adjudication is withheld.

Other limitations of withholding adjudication

Getting a withhold of adjudication comes with several other limitations as well. Although one may deny conviction after getting a withhold, they will still have to answer “yes” if they were arrested. Being withheld of adjudication and probation can make immigrants subject to deportation, even in case of minor offenses.

What Are the Advantages of Withholding Adjudication?

Probation resulting from withholding of adjudication facilitates the rehabilitation of an offender without the forfeiture of civil rights and unpleasant consequences that typically follow a criminal conviction. This legal concept was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court.

When adjudication is withheld, the defendant encounters far fewer legal repercussions as opposed to being found guilty of a crime. This alternative path provides a series of benefits:

  • Avoidance of trial: Opting for withholding of adjudication mitigates the need to undergo a full trial process, thus saving time and financial resources.

  • Limited sentencing: Although not entirely exempt from punishment, once the defendant successfully completes their probation period, they are no longer subject to further sentencing under the same charges.

  • Record sealing potential: Despite the creation of a criminal record, it remains eligible for sealing in many cases. This exclusion is not applicable to certain serious offenses such as drug trafficking or other severe felonies.

  • Reduced social stigma: When a record is sealed and not publicly accessible, it allows for a reduced impact on the offender’s social and professional life, minimizing the stigma that is often associated with a conviction.

Withholding of adjudication is crucial for those seeking to lessen the long-term consequences of legal infractions. This is an opportunity for offenders to move forward with fewer impediments to social reintegration and preservation of their civil rights.

What Are the Disadvantages of Withholding Adjudication?

Withholding of adjudication also comes with several disadvantages that one must carefully consider. Here's a breakdown of the key drawbacks:

  • Lack of recognition: Despite its distinct legal status, withholding of adjudication is often not recognized by the federal government, federal agencies, and jurisdictions of other states. All these three entities may view it as equivalent to a formal conviction.

  • Immigration consequences: For non-citizens, the distinction between a withheld adjudication and a conviction is disregarded by the Department of Homeland Security. This can lead to potential deportation based on criminal offenses as if there had been a conviction.

  • Persistent criminal record: Unlike dismissed cases, a withheld adjudication leaves a criminal record that cannot be expunged. Such records can only be sealed under specific conditions, and even then, they are not erased entirely.

  • Impact on employment: A sealed record, while preferable to an unsealed one, can still elicit queries from prospective employers and cause concerns during background checks.

  • Reduced leniency for future offenses: Once granted a withhold of adjudication, chances diminish for the same consideration in subsequent offenses.

  • Increased penalties in subsequent cases: For individuals who receive a withhold of adjudication and later face new criminal charges, the prior withholding can lead to harsher sentencing.

While considering withholding adjudication, people should pay attention to these factors and theirlong-term impacts on their lives. Understanding the full scope of consequences is crucial in making informed decisions about the defense strategy.

Final Thoughts

When found guilty of a crime in Florida, the defendant won’t necessarily be convicted. Instead, the judge can decide whether to adjudicate the offender guilty or withhold this adjudication. When the latter occurs, the defendant will likely be given a probation term and, after the period is successfully completed, they will not be liable for sentencing.

In this case, defendants will have more equal employment opportunities, maintain their social stability, and avoid the collateral consequences linked with conviction. However, adjudication withholding is not available for everyone. Typically, the courts will reserve this for minor non-violent crimes and first-time offenses where they truly believe the guilty person is remorseful and won’t commit crimes again in the future.

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

I don’t qualify for a withhold. What are my options?

If you don’t qualify for withholding of adjudication due to the nature of the offense or other circumstances, the number of options gets smaller. In such cases, the defense attorney can persuade the prosecutor to drop or reduce the charges by pointing out the weaknesses of their case.

Can CDL drivers get civil traffic citations withheld?

According to the Prohibition of masking conviction, which is a federal regulation found in 49 C.F. § 384.226, withholding of adjudication for Commercial Driver License (CDL) holders is prohibited in every state, including Florida.

As a result, the judges will not grant withholding of adjudication for CDL holders regardless of whether they operated a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) or non-CMV at the time of the offense.