What is a “Withhold of Adjudication” Mean in Florida?

As people, we all make mistakes, some that may have farther-reaching consequences than others. Unfortunately, If you have been arrested in Orlando for a crime, the mistake you made that led to that situation can have a significant effect on your future. An arrest opens up a criminal record that can follow you for life, affecting your job, where you live, and even your ability to drive. Depending on your unique situation, the state of Florida may give you somewhat of a second chance in the form of withholding adjudication. He or she will employ all available methods to secure this opportunity.

What does it mean to withhold adjudication?

A withhold of adjudication is technically a criminal sentence imposed by the judge overseeing a criminal case. The judge can order probation without formally convicting the defendant. Florida Statute §948.01 gives judges the authority to withhold adjudication, or the process of settling a legal case through the justice system, after imposing probation.

Under Florida Statute §948.04, the judge must release the defendant from probation at the conclusion of the probation period without issuing an added sentence for the underlying offense. It’s important to understand that a withhold of adjudication is not a conviction. In fact, it is a much better alternative to a conviction for many reasons.

Withholding adjudication basically gives individuals facing criminal charges an opportunity for their uncharacteristic behavior to avoid hurting their reputation. It is a way for the court to forgive the charged individual’s lack of judgment and helps the defendant avoid the lifelong stigma of a criminal conviction.

Benefits of a Withhold of Adjudication

If there is a chance to obtain a withhold of adjudication in your case, your lawyer will strive for it as it is strongly preferred over a conviction in a situation where the state might not drop your case. A criminal conviction can negatively impact many areas of your life. A felony conviction, in particular, can strip you of your civil rights, such as gun ownership, voting rights, and the right to serve on a jury. With a withhold of adjudication, you can keep these rights if you are charged with a felony offense.

You can avoid checking “the box” on a job application if the court withholds your conviction, which goes a long way in allowing you to pursue meaningful and gainful employment in the field you choose. You can only do so if the box specifically asks whether you have been convicted of a crime. Since you have not technically been convicted, you may ethically answer “no” to the question with a withhold of adjudication.

Your withheld conviction can also benefit you when you return to court for someone else’s case.

Under Florida law, a cross-examining lawyer may ask a person who takes the witness stand if that person has been convicted of a felony or a crime of dishonesty at any point in his or her life. A withhold of adjudication bars lawyers from asking you this question. It can also prevent you from accumulating driver’s license points; and, if your adjudication is withheld on a marijuana or cocaine possession charge, it can prevent you from losing your driver’s license.

Can my withhold of adjudication be sealed in Florida?

Once a person receives a sentence for an arrest, that arrest is not eligible to be expunged; however, the court may agree to seal the record of an arrest that results in a withhold of adjudication because there was not a conviction or an adjudication of guilt.

Who may qualify for a withhold of adjudication in Florida?

Typically, first-offenders may qualify for a withhold of adjudication; but, there are times when a person facing a felony conviction might have his adjudication withheld. In rare cases, judges may withhold convictions for individuals with a criminal history who have prior convictions or withholds.

Under Florida Statute §775.08435, capital, life, and first-degree felony adjudications cannot be withheld.

At The Umansky Law Firm, our dedicated team of criminal defense lawyers in Orlando have over 100 years of combined experience defending those accused of a wide range of offenses. If your situation looks bleak, don’t give up hope. We fight for second chances every day and will fight for you to accomplish the best results in your criminal case.

Call 407-228-3838 for a free consultation or chat with us online, or contact us.