What is a Withhold of Adjudication?

  • Jan 3 2018

What is the difference between a Withhold of Adjudication and an Adjudication (Conviction)? Does it matter?

Florida allows for both adjudications and withholds of adjudications after a finding of guilt in a criminal case. Most commonly, adjudications are called “convictions,” and withholds of adjudication are called “withholds.” A withhold is a legal technicality that’s not easily understood by many lawyers let alone someone without the assistance of an experienced criminal attorney. Below we’ll try our best to explain what a withhold of adjudication is and why, despite being a technicality, can be so important.

Both convictions and withholds come after a finding of guilt – click HERE to read about how a finding of guilt can happen. Once a finding of guilt is made, an adjudication will either be entered or withheld.

Convictions carry serious collateral consequences in both misdemeanor and felony cases. Before accepting a conviction as part of a plea offer or exposing yourself to possible conviction in a pro-se trial, consider speaking to an experienced criminal defense attorney as a conviction has consequences that stem far beyond the courtroom and your record. Click HERE for a list of collateral consequences to criminal convictions.

Any plea offers either from the Court or the State that are “CTS,” or “credit time served” are convictions. Often defendants are offered and pressured to accept “CTS and court costs” to quickly close out their case when they are in custody, at bond hearings, at branch court, or “pro se.” Credit for time served means the Court will be entering a conviction for the crime as charged, using the time already spent in custody as the “sentence.” Although the offer does close out the case and releases the person from custody, all the collateral consequences of a conviction will attach.

As for withholds, a withhold does not mean your case was dropped or that you were found not guilty of the crime. A withhold simply means there was a finding of guilt as to the charges, but a conviction was not entered. Despite there being a finding of guilt, a withhold is still a much better alternative to a conviction in most cases.

Withholds do not have many of the collateral consequences of a conviction. A withhold avoids you becoming a convicted felon or misdemeanant and as such you will not lose all the State & Federal rights & benefits lost if you are a convicted felon. Some (but not all) of the benefits of withholds are:

(1) you will not be a convicted felon/misdemeanant;

(2) you can still receive state & federal student loans and grants;

(3) your driver’s license will not be suspended;

(4) you will not be banned from living in (or even just visiting) public housing; and

(5) in some cases you will still be able to seal the record of the withhold.

However, not all States offer withholds of adjudication so a withhold in Florida may not be recognized in other States or by the Federal government under certain circumstances. Importantly for non-U.S. citizens, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security do not distinguish between withholds and convictions. Also, there are limitations to the number of withholds you can receive on felony cases.

In the end, the differences between a conviction and a withhold of adjudication are the reason why the differences matter – it’s about the collateral consequences that go far beyond the courtroom and affect your future.

To discuss your specific case and how best to resolve it contact Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC to discuss with one of our criminal defense attorneys.

Posted in: Criminal