What’s the Difference Between Regular and Deferred Probation?

When you hear the words “deferred adjudication probation,” your ears should immediately perk up.

In simple layman’s terms, it means you get a second chance to avoid a final conviction, provided you comply with the terms of the probation.

Literally, instead of finding you guilty when you begin your probation, the judge “defers,” or puts off, a finding of guilt to see if you choose to change your ways and comply with your probationary requirements.

It’s something an attorney can argue for in the case of a client who is a first-time offender for example. And if you make it through your probationary period and stay within its guidelines, the case goes on your public record as basically a dismissal, rather than a conviction. You are never convicted of the charges.

Also, and this is a big deal, after successful completion of a deferred probation you may be eligible to have the records of the probation sealed by filing what is called a “Petition for Nondisclosure.” If granted, the case will only show up on a law enforcement background search.

So, for example, a future employer would not see it if they ran a simple civilian level background check.  An attorney can advise you on whether or not you are eligible for this depending on the specific charges you face and whether there are waiting periods associated as to when you can file it.

There are a few types of charges, such as DWIs, in which the law does not allow deferred probation as an option.

How is Regular Probation different than Deferred?

Regular probation means the judge finds you guilty of your charges. You are legally convicted of the crime and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. However, instead of imposing a jail sentence against you at that time the judge places you on probation and orders you to comply with probation conditions.

The big problem for you in the future is that conviction.  It can never be removed.

The conditions of probation are often similar whether the probation is regular or deferred.

What are the Potential Consequences of a Conviction?

Even after successfully completing a regular probation, you’ll still have a criminal charge conviction on your public record. Beyond that your public reputation could be damaged, perhaps permanently and irreparably. You could lose your professional license. You could lose your job. You could have a difficult, nearly impossible time, finding similar employment in the future. You may have a hard time getting into the college you want. You may have difficulty getting student loans, grants, or scholarships.

You’ll have to think carefully about what a criminal conviction on your record could mean in your life.

Other Major Differences

So those are the main differences. A couple others you’ll want to note:

• Judges are more likely to terminate your deferred probation early after you have completed your classes, community service and paid off your fines and fees. You must first complete the lesser of two years or 1/3 of your probation first.

• If you violate your regular probation, you can be required to serve the original sentence. However, if you violate your deferred probation, you may be required to serve any length of your sentence that law allows. And that could include the maximum sentence.

• Also, you can’t get regular probation for many types of offenses. This generally includes more serious offenses like capital murder and aggravated charges. Deferred probation is simply unavailable for DWI cases.

Deferred Probation Can Be a Big Nightmare Too

Your probationary period can last for several years. And if you get in any sort of criminal trouble during that time, even if the activity is far different and lesser in severity than your original charges, you can possibly face the maximum sentence for your original charges anyway.

You can lose your rights to a trial by jury, or to appeal your sentence. And a judge alone has the discretion as to what your sentence should be.

As always, you’re smart to talk to a criminal defense attorney whenever you face any criminal charges. They offer free consultations, so you can get a sound legal opinion on what a fair outcome should be for your actions, and what choices you should make to get that.