In Florida, many criminal cases end in either a finding of guilt, a plea agreement, or an acquittal. However, these are not the only conclusions of a criminal case that are possible under Florida law. Today we will examine withhold of adjudication or adjudication withheld in Florida and what you need to know if it is an option in your situation.
Under Florida law, a defendant may be eligible for withhold of adjudication if he or she enters a plea or is convicted of an offense. Upon sentencing, a judge may choose to impose a sentence that does not include a conviction by imposing a withhold of adjudication. If the defendant enters a guilty or nolo contendere plea, the judge may place the defendant on probation for a period of months or years.
A probation sentence may include several terms, including
Paying restitution to victims
Reporting to a probation officer periodically
No further arrests
Substance abuse or anger counseling, or other types of treatment programs
Staying away from others engaged in criminal activity
Submitting to random alcohol and drug testing
If the presiding judge sentences a defendant to probation in these circumstances, it is because the prosecution and the defendant have agreed to the terms of probation beforehand. Should the defendant abide by the conditions set forth by the court for the entire term of probation, the sentence will not be entered by the court.
Defendants convicted in Florida may also be placed on probation as part of their sentence as well, and completion of probation in that circumstance will not remove the guilty sentence on the charge.
Withhold of adjudication is generally only available to those without any prior convictions or criminal record. It is also only available for certain crimes and never for capital or life felonies. First degree felonies are only eligible for withhold of adjudication if the defendant is not an adult.
Those with second degree and third degree felonies can be eligible for withhold of adjudication, but only if two conditions are met
The prosecutor makes a written request for withhold of adjudication, and
The judge submits written findings of mitigating circumstances justifying withhold of adjudication
Although a withhold of adjudication is not a conviction, it may still have a significant effect on a defendant’s future. A withhold of adjudication is entered into the defendant’s record and, unless a court seals the record, it will be discoverable to anyone conducting a criminal records search. Further, in some cases a defendant must list a withhold of adjudication for job applications, apartment rental applications, and applications for other positions of responsibility. However, if the application is asking the applicant to disclose convictions only, the applicant may truthfully answer “no” to that question.
In Florida, a withhold of adjudication does not act as a conviction for purposes of voting rights or firearms possession. However, in many cases an individual’s probation agreement may specify that they do not own or possess firearms, and violation of that provision may well lead to a criminal conviction that does limit one or both of those rights.