Probation prevents a defendant from going to prison but is normally offered after conviction and sentencing. In contrast, Deferred Adjudication is a form of probation offered in a plea bargain before conviction or sentencing. The biggest difference is that deferred adjudication keeps the conviction off the record. It is not available in some cases. e.g. drunk driving charges.
What is Deferred Adjudication?
Deferred adjudication is a form of plea deal, where a defendant pleads guilty or no contest to criminal charges in exchange for probation. They must meet certain requirements laid out by the court within an allotted period of time. It is not technically a conviction, as the conviction and sentencing are deferred until the end of the probation period, when the case may be dismissed.
Both deferred adjudication and regular probation may involve probation, treatment, community service, or some form of community supervision.
Deferred adjudication is not available in cases of DWI or DWLS. It can only be offered by a judge in a plea bargain after guilty or no contest plea is given.
Regular probation is available after a plea of guilty or no contest, or after a jury finds the defendant guilty, if the sentence received is for less than 10 years and if the defendant has never committed a felony before. It is not available if the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon, or for capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, or aggravated robbery.
After completion of deferred adjudication, the defendant may avoid a formal conviction on their record. They can petition for non-disclosure or sometimes have their record expunged.
With Probation, the guilty conviction stays on the record.
Length of probation
Both deferred adjudication and regular probation can last a maximum of 10 years for a felony and 2 years for a misdemeanor.
Deferred adjudication can be terminated at any time by a judge if they believe it is in the best interest of the defendant or society. The defendant is then convicted and sentenced and can receive any sentence allowed within the law.
Regular probation can be terminated by a judge after two years or 1/3rd of the probationary period, whichever is shorter. The defendant then carries out their original sentence.