Explanation of Adjudication in Florida
In life, it is normal to make a mistake. However, some of those mistakes could lead to life-changing consequences. If you have a criminal record, you could experience difficulties obtaining housing, work, or other opportunities.
You might be eligible for some types of adjudication in the state. Despite having strict penalties for many crimes, Florida also gives you a “second chance” with a resolution known as withholding adjudication. There is also another adjudication called “guilty by adjudication.” However, that ruling does not offer as many benefits for the defendant.
What Is Adjudication in Florida?
In legal terms, adjudication is a formal resolution to a case issued by the courts. These terms can apply to both criminal and civil cases. With this decision, the court has heard the facts and made a ruling.
There are certain states, like Florida, where the judge can settle a criminal case by “withholding adjudication.” If the judge adjudicates you, you are sentenced to a probationary period. After successful completion of the probation terms, the case is closed without entering it on the record.
This law can be complicated. In some instances, if you are charged with a crime and enter a guilty plea (or no contest), you might not be convicted of the offense. You might be determined as “adjudicated guilty,” or the courts can “withhold the adjudication” of guilt.
Does Adjudicated Mean Guilty?
According to Florida Statute 948.01, if the defendant is not likely to engage in any additional criminal activity, they should not suffer these penalties imposed by the law. With this statute, the court has the discretion to “withhold the adjudication.”
For those felony charges, the defendant is placed on probation. However, for a misdemeanor, a fine may have to be paid by the defendant. After the probation period, there is no longer any adjudication of guilt.
On the other hand, when the judge “adjudicates your guilt,” you have been found guilty of the offense and face a conviction. For felony and misdemeanors, these offenses will go on your permanent record.
Benefits of Withholding Adjudication
With the withhold ruling, the defendant is not convicted of a criminal offense. In many cases, the defendant can answer “no” to any question regarding the conviction of a crime. Some other benefits include:
- Keeping his or her driver’s license
- Owning a firearm
- Petitioning for a record seal
However, while the Florida courts allow a judge to withhold adjudication at his/her discretion, it can be disregarded for certain offenses. For example, a withheld license suspension will be considered a “conviction” for future cases. The same standard holds for petit theft offenses.
It is important to remember that Federal law does not recognize those withheld adjudications. If you are granted a withhold of adjudication for a felony offense, you are still considered a felon under Federal law. In some states, a withhold of adjudication might not be recognized, and you are considered convicted of a crime.
Who Can Qualify for a Withhold of Adjudication?
In many cases, a withhold of adjudication is offered to those first-time offenders. These defendants are unlikely to engage in future criminal activity.
What Crimes Can Be Withheld?
These adjudications do have some limits. Some crimes can be withheld, while others cannot. For example, driving under the influence (DUI) cannot be withheld in the state of Florida.
Capital, life, and first-degree felonies are not eligible for withheld adjudications according to Florida Statute 775.08435.
For second-degree felony convictions, certain conditions must be met. The prosecutor must request that the adjudication be validated and the facts of the case support a withhold of adjudication.
Some crimes where the defendant has obtained a withhold of adjudication cannot be sealed, such as:
- Domestic battery
- Sexual offenses
- Aggravated assault
A withhold of adjudication is also scored the same as a conviction for most sentencing guidelines. In some cases, the withholds can be used to determine someone as a “habitual felony offender” or “violent career criminal.” If a person is convicted of certain felonies, a past withhold is often considered an aggravating factor in sentencing.
Talk To an Experienced Legal Team
The adjudication process is complicated in Florida. If you have been charged with a crime, you might be eligible for a withhold of adjudication. One way to determine your eligibility is to consult with a professional legal team. Make sure to contact Orlando criminal defense attorneys at Smith & Eulo Law Firm.