What does it mean when a Judge withholds adjudication in a criminal case in Florida?
Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney recently asked to provide a letter for a man who told me that he often has difficulty establishing that he’s never been convicted of a crime even though under Florida law he was never found guilty in court.

Here’s what he asked me:

A few years ago I was given a disposition of Adjudication Withheld on a felony criminal case in Tampa Bay, Florida. 

Van gogh's portrait of Alexander Reid shows the type of somber man in need of a withholding of adjudication from a Tampa Bay, Florida Judge.
Van Gogh,  Adjudication

Since then I’ve been confronted by prospective employers and even prospective landlords with the public information about my case. 

Despite the fact that the information they find on the case clearly indicates that I received an Adjudication Withheld, they seem to believe that I was guilty of a felony. 

Could you send me a letter that I can use to establish that I was never convicted of a felony?

How could I say no? This kind of problem often could be avoided if after a case is resolved immediate action is taken to seal or expunge the case. For those cases that can’t be sealed or expunged here’s a portion of the letter which I provided for him that could serve the purposes of anyone in his situation:

Under Florida Statutes Section 948.01(2) an Adjudication Withheld is not a conviction. Florida Judges are vested with authority to grant a Withholding of Adjudication whenever the facts and circumstances of a case establish that there should be no finding of guilt in the case. 

When a Florida Judge sentences someone with Adjudication Withheld it literally means the Court does not make a finding of guilt, because the law enables the Judge to “stay or withhold the adjudication of guilt.”

Since there was no finding of guilt, anyone treating the case as though there were a finding of guilt may find themselves subject to civil liability under Florida law.

If that isn’t enough, have them give your favorite Clearwater criminal lawyer a call and I’ll explain it to them or drag them kicking and screaming to this web page.

One Comment
  1. Thank you for this excellent information. I currently live in Missouri but was tried in Florida in Duval County and the court “withheld adjudication. I am retired and I live in the Ozark Hills in seclusion and isolated.

    I approaced the Missouri State Highway Patrol, FBI, NICS and my local county sheriff’s office by phone and in writing. I have written to Matt Shirk-no reply and to Chief Judge Donald R. Moran, Jr.-no reply and in calling the Court Clerk in records sent for a final disposition notice that I sent to Missouri Highway Patrol and to my local county sheriffs office – no reply. Not one of these characters will give me the time of day. I have this one offense and I am in no way a criminal. I do not drink, use legal or illegal drugs and try to do the right thing. I should have never gone to trial. Our justice (injustice) system leaves a lot to be desired. But you sir did a good thing on your web site and I am extremely grateful to you for your valuable information that I could not get from anyone else – Thank you again!

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