In short, Deferred Adjudication is a type of probation. A defendant is placed on a probation for a certain period of time. If the probation is successfully completed, the case is "dismissed." A defendant will enter a guilty plea, but the judge does not find the defendant guilty and instead "defers" the finding of guilt. Pleading guilty for Deferred Adjudication is not considered a conviction under Texas law. A criminal background check will show the arrest for the charge, will show the Deferred Adjudication, but it will not show a conviction.
Difference between Deferred Adjudication and "Straight" Probation.
The major difference between Deferred Adjudication probation and regular, or "straight" probation, is that the deferred is not considered a conviction and the straight probation is a conviction. There is also one key difference and that is the consequences of violating the probation. A violation of a Deferred Adjudication type of probation opens up the defendant to the entire range of punishment. For example, if a defendant takes a plea for 10 years of deferred on a 3rd degree felony, the punishment range for that crime is 2-10 years in prison. If a defendant is violated while on deferred, the judge can sentence them up to 10 years in prison. With a "straight" probation, the sentence is pretty much already set. Using the same felony example, a defendant might plea to a 2 year sentence, probated for 10 years. So the defendant would be looking at a potential 2 year sentence upon violation.
Advantages of Deferred Adjudication
There are a few advantages a Deferred Adjudication type of probation can provide. Since it is not considered a conviction, it can prevent some consequences that normally come with a conviction. For example, drug convictions in Texas come with a suspension of the defendant's drivers license. Pleading to a deferred will keep that from happening. Another major advantage is the fact that a defendant can file what is called a petition for non-disclosure after successful completion of a deferred probation. This essentially seals the criminal record of the offense from private entities. This keeps potential employers, apartment complexes, and many others, from knowing about the offense.