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Withholding Adjudication

You already know that if you’re found guilty in trial it will lead to a conviction. That conviction will ultimately result in statutory penalties such as expensive fines, court program, probation or incarceration. If your guilt is adjudicated though, then you aren’t formally convicted as a criminal. You will instead have a withheld on your record and you will be legally allowed to deny your conviction if you’re asked.

Withholding your adjudication of guilt is a much better alternative to prison. If you receive a withhold, then you won’t lose your civil rights as a convicted offender such as the right to vote or serve on a jury. You may also avoid some of the penalties associated with the crime committed such as having your license suspended or spending time in jail. 

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, we recommend you contact an experienced defense attorney for more information of withheld adjudication.

Attorney for Withhold of Adjudication in St. Petersburg, Florida

We highly recommend you pursue a withhold of adjudication with trusted legal representation. If you qualify for the withhold, then you can avoid the statutory penalties associated with your crime. You can even seal it completely after the appropriate amount of time if you maintain a clean record. If you’re in need of legal counsel, we advise you contact Morris Law Firm, P.A.. 

The attorneys at Morris Law Firm, P.A. understand that Florida’s criminal justice system is complex. We want to ensure you have a strong defense plan and we can fight for your rights in court. Call (727) 388-4736 today to set up a free consultation. Morris Law Firm, P.A. represents people throughout the Pinellas County area including Largo, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Oldsmar and Belleair. 

Overview of Withhold of Adjudication in FL

What is the Purpose of a Withhold of Adjudication?

A withhold of adjudication is a type of probation that doesn’t involve a formal conviction. What happens in a withhold case is that the judge uses their authority to withhold your adjudication of guilt. This means you plead guilty to the crime, but you’re not formally convicted. The judge will instead impose sanctions on you that you must follow if you want to keep your withhold.

Normally, a person is given a withhold when they’re facing their first misdemeanor or felony conviction. Though some judges may grant a withhold to a defendant with a criminal history. A withhold also gives you the opportunity to seal your charges if you’re eligible.

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What are the Advantages of a Withhold?

A withhold serves as an alternative to a conviction. This means you will not have a formal conviction on your public record. Instead you will have a “withhold” on your criminal record. You will be able to lawfully deny your conviction in a job interview as well. This is because you were never “convicted,” but instead you guilt has been withheld.

Another advantage to having a withhold is that you still retain your civil rights. Some of these include having the right to vote or serve on a jury. In some cases, you may even retain the right to possess a firearm or concealed weapons permit.

You will also avoid other collateral consequences if your guilt is withheld instead such as community service or expensive fines. A common example is if your guilt is withheld for a drug offense. A person must have their license suspended up to one year if they’re convicted of a drug offense. However, if the judge withholds your guilt, then you can avoid the suspension.

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What Can a Withhold of Adjudication NOT Do?

It’s obvious that a withhold of adjudication is a much more desirable option than conviction. Although, it does have some limitations. There are certain questions related to your withhold in a job interview that you’re legally bound to disclose. For instance, if the interview asks if you’ve ever been arrested or have been a “defendant,” then you must answer honestly. This is because you’re lawfully allowed to deny your conviction, but not the arrest or charges themselves.

Another limitation you may face from a withhold is whether you’ able to seal it or not. Some crimes cannot be stricken from your record if the case resulted in a “withhold.” Basically, you won’t be able to seal your record entirely from the public. A common example of this is domestic violence crimes. If your domestic violence conviction was withheld, then you will not be allowed to seal it.

Unfortunately, when you withhold your guilt that doesn’t mean you won’t be scored the same as a conviction according to sentencing guidelines. A Florida scoresheet is a way for prosecutors to determine the appropriate sentencing in a felony case. These scoresheets are also used to label people as habitual felony offenders, violent felony offender or violent career criminals. So, your penalties could increase if you’re convicted of a felony in the future.

For instance, suppose you’re convicted of a capital felony and you have a past withhold of adjudication. That withhold could be the aggravating factor that determines whether you get the death penalty or life without parole.

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Limitations to Withhold Adjudication of Guilt in Florida

The possibility of a withhold depends on your judge. Most judges will withhold your adjudication of guilt if it seems you’re unlikely to engage in any future criminal conduct. On the other hand, if you display a pattern of criminal actions then you may be denied a withhold.

However, the judge must follow the statutory limitations associated with withhold an adjudication of guilt. People who are charged with a capital, life or first-degree felony are unable to obtain a withhold adjudication of guilt. No matter the mitigating circumstances.

People charged with a second-degree felony who previously received an adjudication of guilt on an unrelated felony will not be qualified for a withhold. If you don’t have a previous withhold, then you may be able to have your guilt withheld if: 

  • The state attorney’s office requests in writing that the withhold should be denied; or
  • The court uses written documents and find that withholding adjudication is the best option based on mitigating circumstances

A judge may not withhold your adjudication of guilt if you’re charged with a third-degree felony and have two or more previous felony withholds.

Most second and first misdemeanors qualify for a withhold. However, some specific crimes such as driving under the influence (DUI) are not eligible for a withhold.

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Additional Resources 

Prison Policy Initiative – Visit the official website for the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit and non-partisan organization committed to exposing the harm related to mass criminalization. Access the site to learn about their publications, data regarding prisons in the U.S. and more.

Mitigating Circumstances for a Withhold – Visit the official website for the Florida Senate to learn more about the mitigating circumstances surrounding a withhold of adjudication of guilt. Access the site to learn what factors in your case could qualify you for a withhold as well as factors that won’t be considered when granting a withhold.

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Lawyer for Withhold of Adjudication of Guilt in Pinellas County, FL

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, it’s vital you gain legal counsel. You could qualify for an withhold of adjudication of guilt instead of a formal conviction. This means no jail time and you could possibly seal your record forever. To see if you’re eligible, we recommend you contact Morris Law Firm, P.A.. 

Our defense lawyers at Morris Law Firm, P.A. have a strong criminal defense background. With a collective 20 plus years of experience, we can assist you in advocating for a withhold. Call us today at (727) 388-4736 to set up your free consultation. Morris Law Firm, P.A. accepts clients throughout the greater St. Petersburg area including Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park, Bellair, and Oldsmar.

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This article was last updated on August 21, 2019.