Is Deferred Adjudication the same as Deferred Prosecution?

No, they are very different. Although both terms refer to the disposition of a criminal case, the former is a type of probation and the latter is a dismissal of the charges.

What Is Deferred Adjudication?

Deferred Adjudication is a type of probation. As with regular probation, it is possible to petition the court to request early termination of deferred adjudication probation.

If a person completes deferred adjudication probation successfully, he or she may be eligible for non-disclosure. When a petition for non-disclosure is granted, records of the arrest and prosecution are sealed and the person is legally entitled to deny the arrest on most job applications. Unfortunately, records are still available to law enforcement as well as certain professional licensing agencies such as State Bar of Texas and the Texas Board of Nursing and other institutions largely related to personal care and money handling, such as public/non-profit hospitals and the Texas Department of Insurance.

The statute that controls non-disclosures specifically excludes anyone that has ever been convicted or placed on Deferred Adjudication for certain crimes, such as murder, kidnapping, and assault with family violence. For these defendants, there is very little difference between Deferred Adjudication and a straight conviction with probation.

What Is Deferred Prosecution?

In Travis County, Deferred Prosecution is similar to “pre-trial diversion” in that it results in a dismissal and is sometimes available as a plea bargain agreement. It is different than pre-trial diversion in that it is a private agreement between the defendant and the prosecutors and does not involve the Probation Department or any other outside agency.

If a defendant enters into a deferred prosecution agreement, the state dismisses the case in exchange for a signed confession, a promise to stay out of trouble, and a promise to complete certain conditions, such as counseling or community service. If the defendant does not meet the conditions by a specified deadline or gets arrested again during the deferral period, then the prosecutor will re-file the original case and use the signed confession as evidence to support a conviction. If the defendant meets all of the conditions then the case is not re-filed and the statute of limitations is allowed to expire, which means that the defendant can ultimately seek an expunction.

In Travis County, prosecutors typically offer deferred prosecution in misdemeanor cases only when the defendant has no prior convictions; there are no serious allegations of violence; and it is acceptable to any alleged victim. At the felony level, only non-violent, first-time offenders facing third-degree or state jail felony charges such as theft, forgery, and evading arrest are eligible to apply for Deferred Prosecution. More information about the felony program is available on the Travis County Felony Pretrial Diversion Program web page.

Deferred Prosecution is not as good as a straight dismissal but may be an good deal in many cases, depending on the negotiated conditions.

What is “Deferred Disposition” for a Class C misdemeanor?

Deferred Disposition is a pre-trial diversion program that is sometimes offered as a plea bargain agreement in Austin Municipal Court and the Travis County J.P. courts for Class C misdemeanors.

Deferred Disposition is very similar to Deferred Prosecution except that (1) the deferral period is typically much shorter (2) the charge is not formally dismissed until the deferral period and any conditions are successfully completed and (3) the defendant is required to pay a fine disguised as “court costs.” As with Deferred Prosecution, successful completion of Deferred Disposition leads to expunction eligibility.