Understanding Deferred Adjudication in Texas Criminal Prosecutions Before Making a Plea

In Texas criminal law, the option of deferred adjudication gives defendants the ability to admit criminal wrongdoing while avoiding a criminal record. Deferred adjudication can be a lifeline for individuals facing criminal charges, offering them a chance to avoid a formal conviction. However, understanding when and how it applies can be challenging. If a defendant is unable to meet the conditions of a deferred adjudication agreement, they may find themselves in a worse position than if they had been convicted under the original charges. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently heard an appeal by a man who was harshly punished for violating the terms of a deferred adjudication agreement.

According to the recently published judicial opinion, the defendant had been previously found liable for a criminal drug charge by a Texas court. He entered into a deferred adjudication agreement with prosecutors, in which the government would dismiss the charges if he completed certain conditions as part of the agreement. To succeed, the defendant was required to not be convicted of another crime while his agreement was pending.
In June 2020, the defendant was spotted by police in his vehicle with expired registration tags. An officer attempted to stop the vehicle, and the defendant allegedly fled the scene, and the officer initiated a chase. The defendant ultimately crashed his car, and he was arrested and charged with evading police, which led to the rescission of his deferred adjudication agreement.

The defendant appealed his conviction to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that the Governor of Texas had suspended auto registration requirements for vehicles as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The appeals court rejected the defendant’s arguments, finding that the defendant’s actions in evading police were what resulted in his arrest, which ultimately led to the dissolution of his deferred adjudication agreement. The Court ruled that the officer only had to have a good faith belief that the defendant’s initial conduct (driving with expired tags) was illegal at the time of the offense and that the Governor’s suspension of the requirement does not render the police stop illegal.

One of the significant factors that influenced the appellate panel was the lack of clarity surrounding the Governor’s authority to suspend certain statutes under the Disaster Act. The Governor had announced the suspension via a press release but had not filed a formal proclamation with the Secretary of State, which raised questions about the validity of the suspension. The court emphasized that the lack of specific statutory requirements left room for interpretation. It concluded that any possible mistake by the officers regarding the suspension’s details was objectively reasonable, given the ambiguous nature of the statutes in question. As a result of the judicial ruling, the defendant’s convictions will stand, and he will not be able to complete the terms of his deferred adjudication agreement.

Have You Been Arrested in Texas?

For individuals facing drug charges in Texas, understanding the nuances of deferred adjudication can be challenging. This case serves as a reminder of the significance of competent legal representation when navigating the complexities of the Texas criminal justice system. If you or a loved one find yourselves in a similar situation, consult an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney with Guest and Gray to help explore your options and protect your rights. Deferred adjudication can offer a chance at a clean slate, but it’s essential to understand the process and your rights fully before agreeing to a deal. If you have been arrested or charged with a Texas crime, reach out to us to see how we can help.

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