The Common Law

Deferred Adjudication – What Is It?

Deferred Adjudication – What Is It?

I've had a minor run-in with the law, and lots of friends have told me to ask for deferred adjudication. What is deferred adjudication, and how does it work?

Deferred adjudication is a plea bargain agreement between a defendant and a Texas Criminal Court in which formal judgment is withheld or "deferred" pending the outcome of a probation period. If an individual is given deferred adjudication and he or she successfully completes all of the probation conditions assigned by the court, the charges are dismissed. If the defendant violates a condition of his or her probation, he or she is subject to arrest and will have to appear before the original judge on a motion to revoke probation.

In order to obtain a deferred adjudication agreement from the court, the defendant must enter a plea of "guilty" or a plea of "no contest." While both pleas essentially have the same meaning, a plea of "no contest" may serve to protect the defendant against any subsequent civil liability related to the original criminal episode. The advantage to deferred adjudication probation is that, if successfully completed, it results in the underlying charges being dismissed by the criminal court.

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The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or

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