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What's the Difference Between Regular Probation and Deferred Adjudication?

probation.pngAs a practical matter, there is basically no difference between these two types of court supervision. They both usually involve suspended jail sentences, payment of fines and court costs, reporting requirements, and other mandates, such as community service, self-improvement classes, or monitoring devices like ankle bracelets or ignition interlock devices.

But the outcome is a lot different. Defendants who successfully complete regular probation have permanent criminal records. But if a defendant successfully completes deferred adjudication probation, prosecutors dismiss the case and the defendant has no conviction record.

Probation Conditions in Tarrant County

Both types of probation mean conditions that many people consider highly restrictive. Violating any of these conditions could result in a motion to revoke probation. Some of the more common revocation situations include:

· Subsequent Arrest: Committing no other offenses against the State of Texas is perhaps the largest condition. This prohibition does not include municipal or county offenses, such as illegal dumping or violating a leash law. Arguably, it does also not include most traffic violations. But in other cases, motions to revoke almost always follow arrests.

· Failure to Report: Typically, probationers must report to their probation officers at least one ca month. One or two missed appointments may not be a big deal, but anything greater than that usually means adverse action. Generally, any excuse other than death or imprisonment is not good enough.

· Failure to Pay Money: This violation is a little tricky. The Constitution prohibits debtors prisons. So, it's not legal to put people in jail because they owe money. But chances are, if the defendant violated this condition of probation, there is probably at least one other violation as well.

Other conditions, such as avoiding disreputable places and working steadily, are more difficult to enforce. So, they do not generate many motions to revoke probation.

Some Deferred Adjudication Pitfalls

The prospect of no criminal record is a very enticing one. Many criminal convictions, especially crimes or moral turpitude, can derail job searches, career pursuits, and other things in life.

But deferred adjudication is not all wine and roses. If the defendant violates regular probation, the judge has limited sentencing options. For example, if the original plea was a six month sentence suspended for two years, the judge may only put the defendant in jail for six months. But if the defendant received deferred adjudication, the judge may sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum.

Mainly for this reason, defendants should think twice about accepting deferred adjudication in serious felony cases. That's especially true if the defendant has issues with authority or has trouble keeping a schedule.

Obtaining Deferred Adjudication

Tarrant County prosecutors normally only recommend deferred for first-time offenders in non-violent cases. If the prosecutor does not recommend deferred during the plea bargaining process, an open plea before the judge may be an option. In open please, defendants quite literally throw themselves on the mercy of the court.

The type of probation that the defendant receives can make a big difference in a defendant's future. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. I am a former prosecutor who now fights for you. 

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