There’s a lot of confusion about the terms “deferred disposition” and “deferred adjudication” in Texas.
Deferred adjudication is a type of actual probation, for a Class B misdemeanor or higher charge, where the judge says (in legalese), “Based on your plea of No Contest or Guilty, Icould find you guilty, but I’m not going to. I’m going to place you on probation, and if you jump through the hoops of probation, at the end of the case you will never be found guilty of the charge.”
To defer – to put off, or postpone. To adjudicate – in the criminal context it means to find you guilty. So when the judge places a defendant on deferred adjudication, he is postponing finding the person guilty, and will never find them guilty, if they successfully complete the terms of probation.
In Texas, that means a real, formal probation with a monthly visit to a probation officer, minimum community service hours, urinalysis for drugs and alcohol, fines, court costs and $62 per month probation fees.
Again, the major distinction here is that this is only for Class B and Class A misdemeanors, and felony charges in Texas. It’s not for Class C, that is, traffic ticket level offenses.
Deferred adjudications are not expungeable, but most are eligible for Motions of Non-Disclosure.
Deferred disposition is only for Class C charges, and is not a formal reporting probation. The theory is the same – that is, if you pay a (smaller) fine, usually take a class, and stay out of trouble, at the end of the deferral period you are not convicted of the offense.
There is no probation officer, or monthly meeting. I suppose you could say that you are on your own probation, but that’s it. Some clerk will pull your file at the end of the term, check to see that monies are paid, certificates for classes are turned in, and run a criminal background check to see that you did indeed stay out of trouble. Then the case is dismissed.
For Class C Assaults, Theft, Public Intoxication, Minor in Possession and similar non-traffic offenses, this is the same as agreeing to take defensive driving, pay a small fine, and not pick up any more traffic tickets to get a speeding ticket dismissed.
In a successfully completed deferred disposition, you are specifically by statute entitled to seek an expunction, not just the less complete sealing of records.
Part of this confusion is perpetuated by Class C prosecutors, and even some Municipal Court judges, who continually refer to this process as “deferred adjudication”. In fact, the two are very different.
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