Understanding the Differences: Probation vs. Deferred Adjudication in Texas

Posted by Tab Lawhorn | Jul 13, 2023 | 0 Comments

In Texas, probation and deferred adjudication are two different forms of community supervision for individuals who have been charged with a crime. While both involve monitoring and certain conditions to be met, there are key differences between the two:


  1. Conviction: With probation, an individual is found guilty of the offense, and their sentence is suspended. It is a form of punishment that allows the person to serve their sentence in the community under certain conditions.
  2. Guilt on Record: A guilty plea or verdict is entered, and the conviction becomes a part of the person's criminal record.
  3. Sentence Conditions: The court imposes specific conditions that must be followed during the probation period, such as regular check-ins with a probation officer, community service, drug testing, and adherence to certain restrictions.
  4. Length of Probation: The length of probation is determined by the court, depending on the offense and individual circumstances.
  5. Completion and Discharge: If the person successfully fulfills all the conditions of their probation, they can be discharged, and the case is considered closed. However, the conviction remains on their criminal record.

Deferred Adjudication:

  1. Adjudication Deferred: With deferred adjudication, the court defers or delays the adjudication of guilt. The person enters a plea of "guilty" or "no contest," but the court does not enter a formal conviction.
  2. No Conviction on Record: As long as the individual successfully completes the terms and conditions set by the court, there will be no conviction entered on their criminal record.
  3. Sentence Conditions: Similar to probation, deferred adjudication comes with specific conditions that must be fulfilled, such as probation supervision, counseling, community service, or rehabilitation programs.
  4. Length of Deferral: The length of the deferral period is determined by the court, typically ranging from a few months to several years, depending on the offense.
  5. Case Dismissal: If the person successfully completes the deferral period without any violations, the court dismisses the case, and the individual may be eligible for an expunction or non-disclosure, which can remove or limit access to the arrest and court records.

It is important to note that while deferred adjudication may seem like a better option due to the potential for avoiding a conviction and having the record expunged, it is not available for all offenses. Additionally, there are specific eligibility criteria and conditions for both probation and deferred adjudication, and the decision to grant either form of community supervision is at the court's discretion.

About the Author

Tab Lawhorn

Attorney, Tyler Office Tab E. Lawhorn is a principal partner at Lawhorn & Malouf, PLLC in Tyler, Texas. Mr. Lawhorn represents clients in Tyler and throughout Smith County who are victims of a personal injury caused by negligence. He regularly handles matters involving car wrecks, trucking accidents, wrongful death and premises liability.


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