Update: Florida Revises Rules For Withholds of Adjudication
In a previous blog post, we discussed the differences between a conviction and a withhold of adjudication. Since then, Florida has revised its rules with respect to withholds in felony cases. Because withholds are only available for misdemeanors and felonies under limited circumstances, it takes a skilled criminal defense attorney to determine if a withhold may apply to your case.
What is a Withhold of Adjudication?
In Florida the law provides for a withhold of adjudication after a finding of guilt in a criminal proceeding. Despite a finding of guilt, a conviction is not entered. Instead, the defendant agrees to pay a fine and serve probation in exchange for the withhold. Once the probationary period has been completed, there is no adjudication of guilt. While this all sounds complicated – and it is – what it boils down to is, even though you may be pleading guilty [to a felony for example] you are not a convicted felon.
Generally, a withhold of adjudication provides lenience for “uncharacteristic behavior” by allowing the defendant to avoid a conviction and the potential consequences. In a misdemeanor case, for example, a withhold avoids mandatory driver license revocations for certain crimes, such as drug convictions. For qualifying felonies, defendants do not forfeit certain civil rights (e.g. the right to vote and the right to bear arms). In both misdemeanor and felony cases, a withhold of adjudication allows defendants to say they have never been convicted of a crime on a job application.
What Are the Rules in Florida for Withholds in Felony Cases?
First, withholding adjudication is prohibited in capital, life and first-degree felony offenses.
In addition, the court may not withhold adjudication in a second-degree felony offense unless (1) the state attorney requests the withhold in writing or (2) the court determines that a withhold is “reasonably justified” based on the circumstances of the case. However, a withhold of adjudication is not available if the defendant has a prior withhold for an unrelated second-degree felony offense.
Furthermore, the court may not withhold adjudication in a third-degree felony involving domestic violence unless (a) the withhold is requested by the state attorney or (b) the court finds the withhold is reasonably justified.
Finally, the court may not withhold adjudication for any third-degree felony if the defendant has a prior withholding for an unrelated felony offense unless (i) the state attorney requests it or (ii) the court finds the withhold is reasonably justified. And no withhold for a third-degree felony is available if the defendant has two or more prior withholds of a felony offense.
Why This Matters
Whether your case is eligible for a withhold of adjudication depends on factors such as the current applicable law in Florida, your prior record, and the discretion of the state attorney and the court. Ultimately, the best way to avoid a conviction altogether if you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Posted in: Criminal