Written by attorney Jeffrey David Boston

Was I convicted?

Individuals who have had experience as a defendant in the criminal justice system and later find themselves in a situation where they need to know, ask "was I convicted?"

It depends. If the defendant had his case "no filed" (the state decided not to file a formal charging document, with the effect being the case is dismissed); "dropped" (after filing a formal charging document - known as an "information" - the state later decided to no longer pursue the matter, for any number of reasons; or you were found not guilty by judge or jury at trial, then no - the defendant was not convicted.

If the defendant pleads to the charge(s) or is found guilty at trial, the defendant is not automatically "convicted." The judge has the option of either adjudicating him guilty (adjudication of guilt/conviction) or withholding adjudication. If the judge has adjudication ("conviction") withheld, it is typically because the defendant has no prior record or a relatively scant criminal record. If you are a repeat offender of the same crime, and you plea or are found guilty, you can count on the judge not withholding adjudication.

I like to tell clients that the difference between an adjudication of guilt and having adjudication withheld is, with an adjudication, you are "stamped" with a conviction. Like the character in the classic novel "The Scarlet Letter," who had to walk around with a large red "A" on her clothing after committing adultery, one essentially walks around with a large (albeit unseen) "convicted" sign around his neck after being adjudicated guilty of a crime.

Withholding from such a stamping is quite a break for (typically) first-time offenders, and first-time offenders are never guaranteed a withhold of adjudication. One major advantage to garnering a withhold is you may say "no" on a job application that asks "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" - as long as you have not been adjudicated guilty for any other crimes. Another big advantage is in felony court. If you are a convicted felon, you lose your right to vote in Florida. Some crimes have your driver's license suspended if you are adjudicated guilty as charged.

You want a withhold.

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