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The Difference Between Probation and Deferred Adjudication

May 14, 2020

In Texas, probation and deferred adjudication are both alternatives to serving a jail or prison sentence for a criminal offense.

Probation is a court-ordered period of supervision that allows a person who has been convicted of a crime to serve their sentence in the community, rather than in jail or prison. The terms of probation can vary depending on the case, but they typically include requirements such as regular meetings with a probation officer, paying restitution to the victim, and abstaining from illegal activities. If the person on probation violates any of the terms, they may be sentenced to serve their jail or prison sentence.

Deferred adjudication, on the other hand, is a type of plea bargain that allows a person who has been charged with a crime to avoid a conviction if they successfully complete a period of probation. If the person successfully completes the terms of deferred adjudication, the charges against them will be dismissed, and they will not have a criminal conviction on their record. If they fail to comply with the terms, the court can proceed with a conviction and sentencing.


The primary and most important different between probation and deferred adjudication is that probation is a final conviction. Other than very few exceptions, this means that if you are on probation or were placed on probation, then the case can never come off your criminal record. With probation, the court has found you guilty and has placed you on a term of probation instead of sentencing you to jail. There is still a term of confinement that is ordered by the court, but the probation period is in lieu of the jail time. If you meet all of the terms and conditions of your probation, then at the end of the probation term, you will be discharged from probation and the case will be over. It will, however, remain a conviction on your record, but for very few exceptions under the law.

Deferred Adjudication

Unlike probation, deferred adjudication is not a conviction. Although you will typically still be required to report to a probation officer and you will have certain terms and conditions of probation you will have to complete, you are not found guilty when placed on deferred adjudication. Instead, when you enter your plea before the judge, the judge will “defer” finding you guilty and place you on a period of deferred community supervision. If you successfully complete all of the terms and conditions, then you will be discharged from deferred adjudication and the case will be dismissed. This means that you will not be a convicted criminal and if someone looks up your record, they will see that the case was dismissed. This can be very important for especially when looking for jobs or apartment hunting. The other added benefit of deferred adjudication is that in most cases, you will also likely qualify for an order of nondisclosure. This means that after the case is dismissed, you can petition the court to seal the records from the public so that when someone conducts a background check, the case will not appear. A nondisclosure does not, however, seal the records from law enforcement agencies, government agencies, or other state entities that require the issuance of a state license. Though, private employers will not be able to see the charge at all, which can be a great benefit when looking for a job. Deferred adjudication, however, is not always available on every case and it is important that you speak with an attorney to discuss your specific case to help you make the best decision. Please give our office a call today at 214-306-9696 to discuss your case and what the best option is for you and your case!

In summary: Probation is a court-ordered period of supervision following a conviction, where if you violate the terms the court can sentence you. Deferred adjudication is a type of plea bargain, where if you successfully complete it, the charges are dismissed and no conviction is recorded on the criminal record. However, if it is not successfully completed, the court proceed with a conviction and sentencing.

*Note that nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice on any specific case you should contact an attorney directly.