What does “withhold adjudication” mean and how does it affect me?

When you are charged with a crime, you will probably feel bombarded with a lot of confusing legal terms, like withholding adjudication. To withhold adjudication basically means the court is deciding not to pass judgment on you — that is, the judge will not convict you — even though it may deem you guilty.

It is a confusing but important concept to understand because the withholding of adjudication can have tremendous benefit for you. Below, we discuss what withholds are, in what types of cases they might pertain, and of what benefit it might be to you if you the court finds you guilty of a crime.

For legal representation and counsel in Florida, call Goldman Wetzel at 727-828-3900.

What exactly is “withholding of adjudication?”

Withhold means to suppress, and adjudicate means to judge. So basically, withholding adjudication = suppressing a judgment. When a defendant pleads or the court finds him guilty of certain crimes, Florida law allows judges to decide whether to adjudicate you guilty (convict you) or withhold adjudication (withhold conviction).

If the court decides to withhold adjudication in your case, it does not mean you are not guilty, it simply means that the court did not officially convict you and you will not have to face the ordinary collateral consequences.

It is an alternative to conviction that has benefits for both the state (judicial economy), as well as for the defendant (more on your potential benefits below).

When might a judge withhold adjudication?

Withholds are subject to the court’s discretion, within certain parameters. Florida Statutes 948.01(2) provides:

If it appears to the court upon a hearing of the matter that the defendant is not likely again to engage in a criminal course of conduct and that the ends of justice and the welfare of society do not require that the defendant presently suffer the penalty imposed by law, the court, in its discretion, may either adjudge the defendant to be guilty or stay and withhold the adjudication of guilt.

Not all cases qualify for a withhold. If you have a previous conviction for a first-degree felony or have had previous withholds, then you usually do not qualify for a withhold. Your Goldman Wetzel criminal defense attorney can tell you if a withhold is a possibility in your case.

What benefits does a withhold have for defendants?

Lesser penalties

If the judge decides to withhold adjudication, you will still need to pay fines and serve probation, but you will have leniency with your punishment.

For example, if you have a traffic infraction, you can escape points; if your case is drug-related, you can avoid the mandatory driver license revocation; and if your case is a qualifying felony, you will not lose your right to vote or hold public office.

Right to deny conviction

Also, if you ever receive questions about your criminal record on an application or even under oath, you can rightfully deny having a conviction.

Potential sealing

In some cases, you might also have the right to have your record of “adjudication of guilty withheld” sealed. Essentially this means the record still exists, but people cannot view it. You are not eligible for expungement.

Can Goldman Wetzel help with a withhold of adjudication?

Yes, our criminal defense attorneys are intricately familiar with all aspects of the judicial system, including how to steer your case towards a withhold of adjudication. We understand how important your freedom, reputation, and future are, and will work determinedly to get you the best outcome possible.

Contact Goldman Wetzel today to schedule a free consultation.