Regular probation or straight probation is when an individual is found guilty of a crime. The guilt calls for a certain punishment and/or a confinement, but probation allows the individual to suspend the punishment and/or confinement. The individual is then order to community supervision and has certain limitations they must follow: abstinence from alcohol, community service, and many other limitations. If the individual successfully completes the probation, the finding of guilt still stands but the individual was allowed the opportunity to stay out of confinement or other punishment. Additionally, if an individual violates the terms on the community supervision, they can be exposed to a punishment to the original confinement period or punishment entered, not the maximum range possible for the charge. Not every charge is eligible for probation, but some that are not eligible for probation may be eligible for deferred adjudication.
Deferred Adjudication is a special type of community supervision that is nearly identical to probation and sometimes referred to as probation, but with one major exception. “Deferred” allows for an individual to postpone a final order of conviction as long as certain conditions are followed. The judge will order the individual to follow certain rules that are enforced to protect the individual, protect the community, and to allow for the individual to rehabilitate. The rehabilitation part of the order can be seen as a punishment by many: abstinence from alcohol, community service, and routine meeting with a probation officer. Not every charge is eligible for deferred, but many misdemeanors and some felonies are eligible.
Deferred does not remove the arrest from a criminal record and unlike what you may hear, you still have a record. It does prevent a conviction, but a criminal record still shows indications of the arrest. One is legally allowed to say they have not been convicted of a crime if ever asked; however, many applications have now been changed to ask if an individual has ever been arrested. Since a criminal record will continue to show an arrest even when an individual took the deferred option, it still could cause backlash from an employer or other supervising authority.
Deferred is a good setup for some, but this does not mean it is not harmful for others. Deferred still allows the “admission of guilt” to be used against the individual in other proceedings in the future. Additionally, if an individual violates the terms on the community supervision, they can be exposed to a punishment to the maximum range for the charge that put them on deferred; this punishment is determined by a judge without a jury, and the individual has no right to appeal the order.
The exact language of these laws and further details can be found in Article 42.12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. None of this information can take place of the information, knowledge, and expertise provided by a licensed attorney.