As a lawyer dealing in criminal cases - whether they be a felony or misdemeanor, I often get asked, what is probation and how is it different from a “deferred adjudication”. To put it simply, “deferred” falls under the realm of “community supervision.” The Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 42A defines “community supervision” and the 2 different types of probation:
The basic principles of both types of probation are the same (each case is different and has different conditions), but the resulting disposition of each type will be different. One results in a dismissal, and the other a conviction.
Deferred means that the finding of guilt is deferred for a period of time, and if probation is not violated, the case will be dismissed at the end of the probationary period. This, however, does not mean your record is cleared. The disposition of the case at the end of probation will state “dismissed.”
Straight means that you are taking a conviction (guilt is found by the court), but jail/incarceration is suspended for a period of time, and if probation is not violated, you generally will not do any jail time. One exception to this is some convictions require a minimum jail stay as a condition of probation. For example, a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) 2nd requires the person convicted to spend 72 hours in jail.
Generally, a party with a clean record is eligible for deferred probation, but that is at the discretion of the County or District Attorney’s office, and is by no means a guarantee. Deferred is not eligible if the case is taken to trial and you have been found guilty by either the Court or the Jury.
Over the years, I have seen parties get Deferred for all kinds of charges, both misdemeanor and felony. Currently, Texas law prohibits DWI and/or BWI offenders from seeking deferred adjudication. Ultimately, a straight dismissal of the charge is the best option, but in some cases there is just no other option and if Deferred is offered over straight probation, it is definitely worth serious consideration.