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.
Deferred adjudication is a process by which a defendant has an opportunity to avoid conviction for an offense, even though the court has enough evidence to find him/her guilty. When the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for the prosecutor's recommendation that the defendant receive deferred adjudication, the court, if it accepts the plea agreement, will defer or "set aside" a finding of the defendant's guilt for a period of time, even though the court has enough evidence to find the defendant guilty. During that period of time, the defendant will be on probation, subject to terms and conditions of probation. If the defendant successfully completes that probation, the prosecutor will file a motion to dismiss the case and the court will order it dismissed, avoiding a conviction for the defendant. In that case, there will be a record of the defendant's arrest and that the defendant received deferred adjudication. But there will be no conviction. However, if the defendant violates the terms and conditions of probation at any time during the probation period, the deferred adjudication probation can be revoked and the defendant could find him/herself back in court and subject to conviction of the original offense charged and the full range of punishment available for that offense.