A withhold of adjudication (simply called "a withhold") or an adjudication may come by way of being found guilty at trial, or entering a plea of guilty, or no contest.
"Adjudication" is just a fancy word for "conviction." If adjudication is withheld, the sentence is not a conviction.
It sounds simple, but the Florida Legislature has designated some crimes as having mandatory convictions. Those crimes are:
Nearly all second-degree felonies, first-degree felonies, first-degree felonies punishable by life, life felonies, and capital felonies
The Florida Legislature also entitles you to one withhold of adjudication over the course of your life. However, the courts have discretion in permitting a second one.
As a Miami criminal attorney, I am asked all the time what are the differences between a withhold and an adjudication. With regard to getting or maintaining a job, a withhold of adjudication permits you to tell an employer or prospective employer that you have never been convicted of a crime. Note the word convicted. If the employer asks if you have ever been arrested, you must answer yes unless you have had your record sealed. A withhold of adjudication on any qualifying offense may allow you to seal your record. If you seal your withhold of adjudication, you may legally tell an employer that you have never been arrested. Click here to find out if you are eligible to have your record sealed. Click here to find out who may view your criminal record if it is sealed or expunged.
An adjudication, however, may not be sealed or expunged. You must carry that adjudication, or conviction, around with you for life. If the adjudication is for a drug crime, such as possession, sale, or trafficking in marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, alprazolam, heroin, or any other substance listed under Florida Statutes Chapter 893, your driver's license will be suspended for a period of two years.
Furthermore, if your adjudication is on a felony offense, that means you cannot vote, you cannot own a firearm, and you will be subjected to the stigma of being a convicted felon. The only way to reclaim your voting and firearm rights is to apply to the State of Florida for Restoration of Civil Rights. You may visit https://fpc.state.fl.us/RCRapp.htm to fill out an online application if your civil rights have been taken away due to a felony conviction.
In conclusion, a withhold of adjudication is clearly better than an adjudication. However, a withhold doesn't mean that you do not have a criminal record. Any public database will show the arrest and date of sentence. You must have your record sealed in order for your charges to be out of the view of the public.
Call me today to discuss options regarding your case, and whether you are eligible to have your criminal record sealed.