What is a Withhold of Adjudication?


SHORSTEIN, LASNETSKI, & GIHON
explains a
Withhold of Adjudication (Withhold).

When you plead no contest (nolo contendere) or guilty, you will be sentenced.  One portion of your sentencing is whether you will be convicted.  The judge can either adjudicate you guilty or withhold adjudication of guilt.  
What is a withhold of adjudication?

A withhold of adjudication is a withholding of conviction.  This means that you are not convicted of the offense.  However, it will be on your record and would have either been found guilty by a jury or pled guilty or no contest.
What are the benefits of a withhold of adjudication?

A withhold of adjudication has many benefits. 

Employment opportunities
 Some employers are only concerned with convictions, so they may not even ask about a case where you received a withhold of adjudication because it means that you are not technically convicted, so you can answer on an employment application that you have not been convicted of the offense. 
 
Ability to seal or expunge
Also, if you receive a withhold of adjudication on most offenses and have never been adjudicated guilty of any offense before, you may be able to get your criminal offense sealed. 
Maintain your civil liberties
If the case is a felony and you receive a withhold of adjudication, you would not be a convicted felon and lose your right to vote, hold public office, possess firearms, and suffer other collateral consequences of a felony conviction.

Avoid collateral consequences
Some convictions (adjudications of guilt) have collateral consequences like driver's license suspensions, denial of public benefits, and enhancements for future offenses.  Many of these collateral consequences are avoided by a withhold of adjudication.  There are too many statutes and too many collateral consequences to list here, but the general rule of thumb is that if you can't get the offense dropped or dismissed and you don't want to go to trial, a withhold of adjudication may be your best option if available.

Why wouldn't I want to accept a withhold of adjudication?

A withhold of adjudication is still a consequence of an acknowledgement that you either committed the crime or the State had enough evidence to convict you of the crime.  It will still be on your record and you may or may not be able to get it sealed.  You would still receive a sentence, which could include jail or prison, probation, fines, community service hours and other consequences.  If you are not guilty, if the evidence is weak, or if the State's offer is too high, you may not want to accept a negotiated disposition that includes a withhold. 

Non-U.S. citizens - If you are not a United States citizen, a withhold of adjudication may lead to deportation, your inadmissibility into the country, denial of naturalization and other negative immigration consequences.  Never plead guilty or no contest to any criminal offense without speaking with an immigration attorney first.  Even the most minor criminal offense and a withhold and court costs could mean deportation.  Give us a call so we can discuss the immigration consequences of your criminal offense.

Why wouldn't I be offered a withhold of adjudication?

A withhold is usually only offered for first time offenders or offenders with little prior criminal history and only if the charge is non-violent.  The higher the degree of felony, the less likely you are to be offered a withhold.  Of course, these are very general guidelines and each case, each judge, and each prosecutor is different.  Some cases are weaker and your bargaining leverage is greater.  Some judges and prosecutors are stricter and some are more lenient. 

Florida Statute Section 775.08435 prohibits judges from withholding adjudication for certain felonies:

The court may not withhold adjudication of guilt for:
  • any capital, life or 1st Degree Felony
  • A 2nd Degree Felony unless:
    • the state attorney requests in writing that adjudication be withheld, or
    • the court makes written findings that the withholding of adjudication is reasonably justified based on mitigating circumstances.
* The court can't withhold adjudication on a 2nd Degree Felony if you have a prior withhold of adjudication on a felony.
  • a 3rd Degree Felony if you have a prior withholding of adjudication for a felony offense, unless:
    • the state attorney requests in writing that adjudication be withheld, or
    • the court makes written findings that the withholding of adjudication is reasonably justified based on mitigating circumstances.
* The court shall not withhold adjudication on a 3rd Degree Felony if you have 2 or more prior withholds of adjudication on a felonies.
* This provision does not apply to juvenile cases.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for or accused of a crime and want to find out if you might be eligible for a
Withhold of Adjudication,

Call Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon Now!

904-642-3332 (Jacksonville)
 
or

407-228-2019 (Orlando). 

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