How Long Does Adjudication Withheld Stay on Your Florida Record?


After pleading guilty to criminal charges or being found guilty at trial, you may assume that a judge will automatically convict you. In Florida, however, judges have the option to withhold adjudication of guilt. If this happens to you, you still face legal consequences but do not receive a formal conviction.

An experienced Florida criminal defense attorney answers common questions about adjudication withheld, including what it is, who qualifies for it, and how long it stays on your record.

What Is Adjudication Withheld?

Also known as a withhold of adjudication or withheld adjudication, adjudication withheld occurs as part of the sentencing phase of a criminal proceeding. After you are convicted at trial or enter a guilty plea (or no contest), the judge can place you on probation without entering a judgment of conviction. 

This protects you from some consequences of a conviction, including incarceration, losing your civil rights, and becoming ineligible to seal your criminal record. However, it can still negatively affect your future.

Who Qualifies for Adjudication Withheld?

Typically, judges withhold adjudication for people without prior criminal convictions. However, if a judge decides you are unlikely to continue engaging in criminal activity, you may still receive a withhold of adjudication even if it’s not your first offense.

In addition, a Florida attorney for criminal cases will tell you that only certain crimes qualify for adjudication withheld. Courts may not withhold adjudication for capital, life, and first-degree felonies. Also, withheld adjudication does not exist for federal crimes. 

What Conditions Apply to Adjudication Withheld?

When a judge sentences you to probation, you must follow several conditions for a certain period. These terms depend on the offense, your history, and other factors. Conditions that Florida criminal defense attorneys often see include the following:

  • Reporting to a probation officer
  • Having suitable employment
  • Performing community service
  • Paying restitution to victims
  • Submitting to drug testing
  • Attending treatment programs

If the court sentences you to probation after trial, it has broad authority to decide the terms. After a plea deal, however, the court will impose the conditions all parties agreed upon. This makes finding legal representation for criminal defense in Florida essential. 

Does Adjudication Withheld Count as a Conviction?

Adjudication withheld does not count as a conviction. That means you can still vote and don’t automatically lose your right to possess a firearm. It also means that if a job application asks whether you have ever been convicted of a crime, you can answer “no.”

However, read applications and contracts carefully after receiving a withheld adjudication. If a form asks whether you have been arrested, charged as a defendant in a criminal proceeding, or entered a guilty plea, you must answer “yes” when it applies.

Adjudication withheld will also still appear on a background check, so you may have to explain your situation to future employers or landlords. 

How Long Will Adjudication Withheld Stay on the Record?

Adjudication withheld will stay on the criminal record forever unless you have it sealed. However, Florida record-sealing is only allowed for some offenses. You cannot seal records involving manslaughter, kidnapping, domestic violence, sexual offenses, aggravated assault, and burglary, among other offenses.

Withheld adjudications have risks and benefits, and their impact depends on the circumstances of your case. Like any other part of a criminal proceeding, they require careful navigation, preferably with the help of a criminal defense attorney serving Florida.

If you have more questions or need legal representation, call Michael White, P.A., at 954-270-0769 for a free consultation with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney.

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After several years as a prosecutor and General Counsel for the Broward County Police Benevolence Association (PBA), Michael White started his own practice focused on protecting individuals accused of crimes.

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