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Criminal Defense In Florida: An Overview Of Withholding Adjudication


Arrested and charged with a crime in Central Florida? Your case is probably not going to end up at trial. While you have a well-established right to a trial, only a small percentage of criminal charges actually get there. For example, the Pew Research Center cites data showing that only 1 in 50 people charged with a federal crime end up facing a trial.

There are many reasons why a criminal case could wrap up before a trial—from plea deals to charges being dropped outright. In Florida, adjudication may also be withheld. Here, our Orlando defense attorney provides a comprehensive overview of the key things that you should know about withholding adjudication in criminal cases in Florida.

Withhold Adjudication in Florida: Know the Basics 

Under Florida law (Florida Statutes § 948.04), a judge has some legal discretion to “withhold adjudication” in a criminal case. In effect, this means that when a person is found guilty of a crime—potentially through a plea agreement—the court can “withhold adjudication” rather than impose a formal conviction. While the defendant is found to have committed the offense, the court refrains from entering a formal judgment of guilt. Most often, the defendant may be placed on probation or required to meet other conditions. Once the court’s conditions are all satisfied, the case can conclude without a formal conviction ever being entered on a person’s criminal record. 

An Overview of the Potential Advantages of Withhold of Adjudication 

Withholding of adjudication is not an option in every case in Florida. It is generally reserved by judges for first-time offenders—often those who are facing misdemeanor charges or lower-level felony charges. When available, there are several advantages for defendants, including:

  • No Formal Conviction on Record: Most importantly, a withhold means no formal conviction on a person’s criminal record. Preserving a clean record can be beneficial for future employment or housing opportunities where background checks are performed.
  • Eligibility for Sealing or Expunging: Depending on the circumstances, a defendant might be eligible to have the record of the offense sealed or expunged after a period.
  • The Potential for Reduced Penalties: Often, when adjudication is withheld, the defendant may face lesser penalties, like probation. In general, defendants who are granted a withheld adjudication are able to avoid incarceration. 

Withholding Adjudication is Not the Same as Dropping the Charges 

To be clear, the withholding of adjudication in Florida is not equivalent to charges being dropped.   When criminal charges are dropped, the prosecution ends, and there is no finding of guilt or innocence. The case effectively ceases to proceed. On the other hand, a withhold of adjudication comes after a finding or plea of guilt. The court acknowledges the defendant’s guilt but chooses not to formalize the conviction. The defendant will still face penalties—which are most often some form of probation. 

Set Up a Confidential Case Review With a Top Orlando, FL Criminal Defense Lawyer

At The Baez Law Firm, we are skilled, experienced advocates for justice. If you have any questions about withholding adjudication, a top defense attorney can help. Contact our law firm now to set up your private initial legal consultation. From our Orlando office, we provide solutions-focused guidance and support to defendants throughout Central Florida.


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