Withhold Adjudication in Florida: Definition & Laws

Withhold Adjudication in Florida: Definition & Laws

Withhold Adjudication in Florida: Definition & Laws

If you are found guilty of a crime, the judge may decide to convict you or withhold the adjudication of guilt. These legal terms can be very confusing for people that are not familiar with the law. As a result, people often want to know what adjudication withheld is in Florida. 

In Florida, withholding adjudication means that a person was found guilty of a crime, but they have not been formally convicted. Instead of serving an ordinary criminal sentence, they could be placed directly under probation. Unlike a conviction, people do not lose their civil liberties with an adjudication withheld.

Since this concept can be confusing for many people, in the sections below, you will find key information about this term, how it works and some of its potential benefits.  

Withhold Adjudication in Florida: Meaning & Statutes

When a defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty of a crime, he or she will face a criminal conviction and an appropriate sentence for such offense. However, under Florida law, in some cases, judges have discretion to decide whether to convict you (adjudication of guilt) or withhold the adjudication of guilt. 

In simple terms, adjudication withheld in Florida is not a conviction, but it does mean that a person was found guilty of a crime. Since the defendant was not formally convicted, he or she will not face the ordinary consequences of a criminal conviction. Instead, the judge may decide to place the defendant directly under probation.

graphic explaining the difference between a conviction and withhold adjudication in Florida

If the court decided to withhold adjudication in your case, you need to make sure to abide by the terms of your probation. If you successfully complete your sentence, you can no longer be prosecuted for this offense. 

Although this might seem like a better alternative to conviction, adjudication withheld might not be suitable for all cases. In fact, according to Florida Statute ยง 948.01(2), the judge may consider this option if it seems that the defendant is not likely to engage in criminal activity again and he does not represent a risk to society. 

Based on this, withhold of adjudication is usually offered to first-time offenders. That said, there are certain crimes that, due to their severity, are not eligible for this process. Some examples of these offenses include, but are not limited to:

  • DUI
  • Capital felonies
  • First-degree felonies
  • Second-degree felonies
  • Domestic violence in the third degree

If you already have previous withholdings for other felony offenses, you may not be able to obtain a withhold of adjudication. If you want to know if this is a possible path for you, you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer

Is adjudication withheld a conviction in Florida?

In Florida, adjudication withheld is not a formal conviction, but defendants are still considered guilty of the charge against them. However, since they were not formally convicted, defendants may be placed under probation instead of serving an ordinary sentence.  

Overall, a conviction can lead to severe penalties and consequences affecting your civil liberties and your daily life. In Florida, if a person’s conviction was withheld, it does not mean that he or she was found innocent of a crime or that the charges were dropped. 

In fact, it means that the defendant is guilty of the charges. But, due to lack of criminal history or desire to keep engaging in criminal activities, the judge decided to withhold the conviction. So, to put it in simpler terms, if you were found guilty of a felony and your case is withholding adjudication, you are not considered a convicted felon because the judge did not convict you. 

That said, you will be placed under probation and you will be required to pay some fines. Additionally, unless it is sealed, an adjudication withheld will appear on your record.  

Can Adjudication Withheld Be Expunged in Florida?

In Florida, withhold of adjudication cannot be expunged of a criminal record. It can only be sealed. As a result, the criminal record will not be available to the public. However, according to Florida law some criminal offenses are not eligible for sealing due to their severity. 

Examples of criminal offenses where a adjudication was withheld but cannot be sealed include , but are not limited to:

Unless your criminal record is sealed, a withhold of adjudication can appear in a background check. There are many offenses that cannot be sealed or expunged in Florida. When it comes to withholding adjudication, this alternative is usually reserved for those that were found guilty of non-violent offenses. 

Benefits of Withhold Adjudication

Here are some benefits of a withhold of adjudication:

  • You can purchase firearms: In Florida, gun laws establish that convicted felons are not allowed to buy or possess a gun. So if your case was withheld, you will not lose your right to own or buy a gun or any other civil liberties.  
  • Lesser penalties: If the judge decides to withhold adjudication, you will still need to pay fines and serve probation, but you will receive leniency with your punishment. This means that other potential penalties that come with a conviction will not be applied to you (for example, in a drug-related case, you can avoid the mandatory license revocation). 
  • Right to deny conviction: Although a withhold of adjudication will still appear on your record, since you were not convicted, you can rightfully deny having a conviction on a job application or if you are under oath. 

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in St. Petersburg

A withhold adjudication of guilt in Florida can be a better alternative than a conviction. So if you wonder if you may be eligible for this sentence, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney. 

If you or your loved one is facing charges, contact our St. Petersburg defense attorneys to discover your legal options. Send us a message via our contact form or call us at (727) 828-3900 to schedule a free consultation.