I often have to explain to clients what the difference is between a “Withhold of Adjudication” and an “Adjudication of Guilt” in Florida.
To start with, both are dispositions, or outcomes of a criminal case—what the court record shows after the case is closed.
(Some people confuse this with the different types of pleas that can be entered—such as a “Guilty as Charged” or “No Contest / Nolo Contendere” pleas. Pleas are totally different than outcomes, and are not addressed here.)
At its most basic level, a Withhold is better than an Adjudication, so if you have the choice, choose the Withhold. It never hurts to ask your lawyer if you can get one.
Q: Which one is a “conviction”?
A: An Adjudication is always a conviction for Florida purposes, but sometimes a Withhold is, too.
Being Adjudicated is always the same thing as being convicted. Where it matters the most is for felony charges, with regard to your constitutional rights. If you are Adjudicated on a felony charge, then you lose certain constitutional rights, such as the right to vote (in flux as of this writing 6/21/19), run for office, and possess firearms. If you only have a Withhold for a felony, then you keep your constitutional rights.
It is important to note that many Florida statutes by their own terms can include a Withhold in their meaning or definition of a conviction. (For example, the Registration of Convicted Felons statute 775.13 says that regardless of whether you get a Withhold on a felony or not, you must comply with the law regarding photographs, fingerprints, and conviction registration.)
It is important to consult with an attorney if you are concerned with specific statutory requirements.
Here are some other common questions:
Q: If I get a withhold of adjudication, won’t it be kept off my public record?
A: No. Whatever the outcome of your case in Florida is, it will show on the court record.
This is true for Withholds, Adjudications, and even dismissals! The only way to clear your record is a whole separate process, called expungement, which is a separate issue, please check the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website for more information.
Q: I don’t have a criminal record. Doesn’t the judge have to give me a Withhold?
A: No. Florida doesn’t guarantee anybody a Withhold, but it does limit how many you can get, depending on your record.
Q: I want to apply to the military. Can I get in with a Withhold?
A: It depends.
A Withhold is a Florida designation; the federal government does not recognize the Withhold. Unfortunately, if the Feds (and the federal Military branches) are reading your Florida record, they will probably interpret your Withhold for their purposes the same as an Adjudication. Check with the specific branch of U.S. Military that you are interested in before you enter your plea, and let your lawyer know that your goals include military service.
Q: If I get a Withhold, will I keep my job?
A: It’s up to your employer.
Check your office policy manual or ask your Human Resources department. Sophisticated job applications will generally cover all the bases and not only ask about Adjudications but also about Withholds, for felonies and misdemeanors. Many times employers care more about honesty than about your criminal past, depending on the distance you have put between yourself and your past.
If you or someone you know would like the assistance of qualified professional legal help in Florida, please contact Chesser & Barr, P.A. We would be happy to be of service.