What is a stay of adjudication?

Of course everyone charged with a crime is seeking the best possible outcome – a full dismissal of all charges.  As a practical matter, dismissals are a pretty rare outcome.  But that doesn’t mean that a good outcome is unattainable.  There are a range of possibilities between the best and worst case scenarios.  One that we commonly might hear about is a “stay of adjudication.”  So what is that, and how does it work?

Under a stay of adjudication, a defendant is required to give up their trial rights and admit to having committed a crime.  They will have to describe to the judge what they did that makes them guilty of the offense.  However, the judge will not accept their plea, which means that they are not convicted of the crime!  Instead, the judge will (figuratively) fill out all the paperwork needed to enter a conviction on the person’s record, but not sign off on it.  Instead, the paperwork is simply set aside and the person is placed on probation.  If the person is successful on probation, the paperwork gets shredded and the case is dismissed!  However, if the person violates the terms of their probation, the judge will then have the option to decide to sign the paperwork at that point, and then a conviction would be entered on the person’s record.

A stay of adjudication is really kind of a “carrot or stick” approach.  The risk is high, but so is the reward.  For someone who is confident of success on probation, it can be a great outcome. 

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