If you’re charged with a misdemeanor (and many felonies as well) in Travis county, you will almost certainly be offered probation. You might also be offered deferred adjudication or deferred prosecution, which are VERY different, even if they sound similar.
Probation is probably the most understood term, but the form of probation can still vary greatly. Judges can order jail time as a condition of probation (a.k.a. ACOP). Unlike regular time, ACOP days must be served “day-for-day”, meaning that defendants don’t get credit for 2-for-1 days. Thirty days ACOP is 30 real days spent in jail.
Additionally, other conditions are often attached to probation. This will typically include community service hours, fines, drug/alcohol or anger management classes (anywhere from 8-60 hours), and a variety of other conditions, such as not associating with specific people. On top of everything, there are monthly probation fees of about $60/month and you need to check in with a probation officer periodically.
If offered probation, I often advise my clients to look hard at an alternative, such as a short jail sentence. Often, spending a couple days in jail is preferable to a year or two of reporting and paying fees.
Deferred adjudication is almost identical to probation, but with a few very important differences. The main advantage to deferred adjudication is that, upon successful completion, there is no conviction. The arrest and deferred adjudication will show on your criminal history, but all the collateral consequences of a conviction are avoided.
On top of that, you will usually be eligible for an order of non-disclosure. This seals your record from public view. It’s not quite as good as an expunction, in which records are completely destroyed, but still does keep many employers, landlords, etc. from seeing your criminal history.
Deferred Prosecution is far and away the best option of the three. With a deferred prosecution agreement, the prosecutor will dismiss the case up front with the understanding that the case will be re-filed if certain conditions aren’t met. The main condition is usually that you can’t pick up any more Class B or higher misdemeanors. Sometimes there is community service required as well.
With a Deferred Prosecution, there is no probation officer to check in with, no probation fees, and the conditions are typically much less cumbersome than probation conditions. Best of all, once you are finished, you can have your record expunged. This means that DPS, the court, and any other agency maintaining the records must destroy them, and you can legally deny ever having been arrested.
A deferred prosecution is often a good deal for the defendant, and will not be offered in the majority of cases. One thing to consider is if the deferred prosecution is being offered, it is possible that the prosecutor knows she has a weak case, so it might be worth it to push for a dismissal.
Whether taking probation, deferred adjudication, or a deferred prosecution, it is important to think about the consequences of a violation. This will be a subject of a separate blog post, but the consequences can range from a minor slap on the rest, to a conviction and serious jail time.
If you or a loved one is facing charges in Travis, Williamson, or surrounding counties, call 512-677-5003 for a free consultation.