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What is a Withhold of Adjudication in Florida and How Can it Help Your Case?

What is a Withhold of Adjudication in Florida and How Can it Help Your Case?

A “withhold of adjudication” is a special kind of sentence in Florida where the judge places you on probation but does not formally convict you of a criminal offense.

What Exactly Does it Mean to Have Adjudication Withheld?

If you receive a withhold of adjudication, it means the judge found you guilty but did not formally convict you of the crime. So you avoid having a conviction on your record.

Instead of a conviction, the judge will place you on probation for a period of time. You’ll have to complete all the terms – like paying fines, doing community service, etc. But if you successfully complete probation, you can avoid having a formal criminal conviction.

When Do Judges Grant a Withhold of Adjudication in Florida?

Judges typically grant a withhold of adjudication to first-time offenders in Florida. It’s like getting one free bite at the apple before you face the full consequences of a conviction.

Defense attorneys also request withholds for clients who have issues that could be negatively impacted by having a conviction on their record. Things like immigration status, professional licenses, and gun ownership rights.

So while anyone can request a withhold, they are more commonly given to first-time offenders without a serious criminal history.

Why is a Withhold of Adjudication Helpful in Florida?

There’s a few big benefits to having adjudication withheld in Florida:

1. Avoid a formal conviction on your record

The biggest benefit is avoiding a formal conviction on your criminal record. While the arrest and guilty plea will still show up on your record, there won’t be a formal conviction if adjudication is withheld.

This allows you to honestly say you don’t have a conviction on applications for jobs, housing, schools etc. And convictions can negatively impact all those things.

2. Possibility to seal or expunge your record

If you successfully complete probation after adjudication is withheld, you can petition the court to seal or expunge your criminal record in Florida. This limits public access to your record.

But you only qualify for record sealing or expungement if adjudication was withheld. If you were convicted, you won’t be able to seal or expunge the offense.

3. Avoid impact on civil rights and privileges

A formal conviction can also negatively impact things like your right to vote, own a gun, hold public office or receive government benefits.

But if adjudication is withheld, you may avoid losing those civil rights and privileges in Florida. The specifics depend on the offense though.

4. Prevent deportation or loss of immigration status

For non-citizens and immigrants, a formal conviction can also lead to deportation or loss of legal immigration status.

But many offenses don’t trigger immigration consequences if adjudication is withheld. So for defendants with immigration issues, getting a withhold can help prevent deportation or loss of status.

When Would a Judge Not Grant a Withhold of Adjudication?

Unfortunately judges don’t give a withhold of adjudication in every case. Here’s some common reasons it would be denied:

  • If you have prior convictions – Withholds are usually only given to first time offenders
  • Violent offenses – Judges rarely withhold adjudication for violent crimes
  • Serious drug offenses – No withhold if you’re charged with drug trafficking
  • Offenses requiring prison time – Judges won’t withhold if you receive a prison sentence
  • Sex crimes – Very difficult to get a withhold on sex offense charges
  • DUI manslaughter or vehicular homicide – These serious DUI cases often lead to convictions

So in general, you can request a withhold of adjudication but it’s not guaranteed. For minor offenses though, judges frequently grant withholds – especially for first-time offenders.

How Can a Defense Attorney Help Get a Withhold of Adjudication?

The best way to get a withhold of adjudication is to have an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer argue for one on your behalf. A skilled attorney can review the facts of your case and prepare the strongest arguments for why you deserve a withhold instead of a conviction.

A lawyer can also negotiate with the prosecutor ahead of time to get their agreement not to oppose a withhold request. This makes it much more likely the judge will grant one. Prosecutors have wide discretion, so getting them onboard is key.

And your attorney can present evidence of any mitigating circumstances that support granting a withhold – like mental health issues, addiction, your positive employment history etc.

So having a lawyer in your corner arguing for a withhold of adjudication can make a huge difference in whether the judge grants one or not. Their advocacy can be the difference between a conviction or just probation with no conviction.

What Should You Do if You Want a Withhold of Adjudication?

If you’re facing criminal charges in Florida and want to get a withhold of adjudication, here’s some tips:

  • Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney – Having a skilled lawyer argue for a withhold makes a big difference
  • Get character reference letters – Letters from employers, teachers etc. help show you deserve a withhold
  • Complete pretrial intervention programs – Finish drug rehab, anger management etc. before your court date
  • Express remorse to prosecutor – Sincerely take responsibility and commit to rehabilitation

Following those steps improves your chances. But getting a withhold is never guaranteed. So talk to a lawyer ASAP if you hope to avoid a formal conviction on your record through a withhold of adjudication.

The Bottom Line

A withhold of adjudication is a special sentence where the judge places you on probation but doesn’t formally convict you of a crime. It’s like getting one free pass before facing the consequences of a conviction.

Withholds allow first-time offenders to avoid many negative consequences of a conviction – like impacts on jobs, record sealing eligibility and immigration status. That’s why meeting with an experienced criminal defense attorney is so important if you want the judge to grant a withhold. Their advocacy can make all the difference in whether it’s granted or not.

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