What is the difference between probation and deferred adjudication? This is a common question from clients eager to find out more about avoiding jail or prison time in Texas. While defense attorneys are committed to protecting their client’s constitutional rights and holding the prosecution to their burden of proof, sometimes it is in a client’s best interest to explore options of community supervision. Community supervision refers to the placement of an defendants into a program that permits defendants to live and work in the local community while under the supervision of peace officers (called community supervision officers, or CSOs), as an alternative to incarceration. The two programs that allow an offender to avoid jail or prison time are probation and deferred adjudication.

Chapter 42A of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure lays out the details of both probation and deferred adjudication. The first type of community supervision, straight probation, is a court order handed down by the judge when a conviction is present on the offender’s record due to a finding of guilt, but the judge sees fit to allow him or her an opportunity to complete a period of community service instead of a more severe penalty like jail time. There are other requirements of the offender as well, including such things as regularly scheduled meetings with an assigned CSO, participation in drug testing, and certain educational and/or employment obligations. Even though an offender who is granted probation usually does not have to serve jail or prison time, completion of the probation program does not clear the conviction from the offender’s record.

The second type of community supervision is called deferred adjudication. Deferred adjudication is a deferment of conviction by the court, offered so that an offender can stay out of jail to complete an alternative program. It is granted to eligible offenders without a formal conviction added to their records if the offenders plead “guilty” or “no contest” in court; the judge chooses to grant this court order to give the offenders a chance to keep the conviction off their records. Successful completion of such a program in Texas usually will result in the charge(s) made against an offender being dismissed (though the “dismissal” is not the same as if a case is dismissed by a “motion to dismiss,” signed and executed by the prosecutor and the judge).

A violation of either form of community supervision is a serious offense. A violation of regular straight probation can result in the offender having to serve time in jail for the remainder of his or her sentence or, in some cases, for the full original sentence. A violation of deferred adjudication can result in the offender receiving the maximum sentence for his or her original crime. If an offender violates probation in the state of Texas, the court is not required to approach the case with any leniency. If someone is granted community supervision and fails to follow the conditions delineated in the court order, he or she likely will be subject to these more severe legal consequences.

Hiring a competent criminal defense attorney to manage your case is the most efficient and effective way to seek probation or deferred adjudication to avoid jail or prison time. If you or a loved one needs professional legal representation in Travis County for assistance with this or any other legal issue, the committed team of experienced attorneys at Jarvis, Garcia, & Erskine Law are ready and waiting to answer your questions and help you understand your options. You can contact Jarvis, Garcia, & Erskine Law any time of day or night by visiting their website or calling 512-359-3030.