What is the difference between Probation and Deferred Adjudication?

What is the difference between Probation and Deferred Adjudication?

Another common question our Fort Worth Criminal Attorney gets from clients during the process of their case is what is the difference between probation and deferred adjudication in Tarrant County and/or Dallas County? These dispositions share a lot of similarity but they also have a lot of distinguishing characteristics which will make a difference as to which one you pick.


Probation, also known as “community supervision” or “straight probation” is basically a suspension of a jail sentence. To be eligible in Texas, you must never have been convicted of a felony in Texas or any other state. So, let's say you are charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in Tarrant County. And let's say that you provide a blood specimen to the police and let's say that the result shows you were at a .14 Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) at the time you were driving. Based on this factor and other factors, your attorney may advise you to try and plea bargain with the State's attorney and see what kind of deal you can work out. Probation is a possibility in most DWI cases. Let's say the prosecutor offers you 30 days in jail in exchange for a guilty plea. Your attorney can request the State's attorney to “suspend” your sentence so you won't do any actual time in jail instead you will serve out your 30 days in jail at home on probation. Typically, if the DWI is your first offense, you can plan being probation from anywhere from six months to twenty-four months. Of course, some people in some circumstances may do more or less. While on probation, you will have terms and conditions. Examples of these are--

  • Don't get arrested
  • Don't drink alcohol
  • Don't use illegal drugs
  • Support your dependents
  • Check in monthly with your probation officer
  • Pay your probation fees (usually around $60 per month)
  • Any other terms that the judge thinks is appropriate
  • Any other terms that the probation department thinks is appropriate.

Now, the down said to probation is that you will be convicted. Meaning that you will have to plead guilty and the court will find you guilty. This means that you will have this conviction on your permanent criminal record for the rest of your life.

Deferred Adjudication

Deferred Adjudication, meaning the court “defers” finding of guilt, is the better alternative if you can get it. Deferred Adjudication works virtually the same way as probation in the real-world. All of the conditions mentioned above will also apply to you while on Deferred Adjudication in Tarrant County or Dallas County. In short, you will be expected to be on your best behavior. The big difference, and the reason that most people take it over probation, is that there no finding of guilt. Meaning, as long as you complete terms and conditions for the time-period, the court will not find you guilty but will actually dismiss and discharge your offense. So, there will not be a conviction on your permanent record. Certain offenses are also eligible to be sealed through a Non-Disclosure after your offense has been dismissed. You can read more about that here.

Our Fort Worth Criminal Attorney can be reached at 817-900-2823 to discuss if you are eligible for Probation and/or Deferred Adjudication.