Does Deferred Adjudication Show Up on Your Record?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Deferred adjudication is a type of plea deal that allows a defendant to avoid conviction if probation is successfully completed.
  • Although not technically a conviction, deferred adjudication will likely still appear on a criminal background check in most cases.
  • Laws regarding disclosure and expungement of deferred adjudication vary by state and type of background check.
  • It’s important to consult an attorney to understand how deferred adjudication could impact your record and options.
  • Being transparent and upfront about deferred adjudication is usually the best approach during employment, licensing and other application processes.


Deferred adjudication, sometimes known as deferred prosecution, is a legal process that allows a defendant to accept responsibility for an offense without an actual conviction being entered on their record. If the defendant successfully completes a probationary period, the charges are dismissed.

This article will comprehensively examine whether and when deferred adjudication shows up during a criminal background check. We will analyze the key factors that determine disclosure, look at relevant laws and procedures in different jurisdictions, and provide guidance on how to approach deferred adjudication during employment, licensing applications and other processes.

Understanding the potential visibility of deferred adjudication on your record is essential for those who have accepted a deferred adjudication plea. This article provides in-depth information on deferred adjudication disclosure that can help inform wise decisions and strategies when applying for jobs, occupational licenses, housing and other opportunities.

By the end, you will have a clear understanding of when and how deferred adjudication could be disclosed, as well as best practices for handling it. Let’s get started.

Does Deferred Adjudication Technically Count as a Conviction?

Deferred adjudication is often appealing because it averts an actual conviction being placed on your criminal record. However, it’s important to understand that deferred adjudication will still likely show up on a background check in most scenarios.

Although deferred adjudication is not technically considered a conviction, it does imply that you accepted responsibility for criminal charges. Most background checks will reveal a deferred adjudication plea or probation.

So while deferred adjudication prevents a conviction, it does not completely keep your run-in with the law off your record. The exact procedures and laws regarding disclosure and expungement vary between states. But in most cases, deferred adjudication will be visible on a background check report.

How Do Background Check Laws Handle Deferred Adjudication?

Laws and regulations surrounding background checks and deferred adjudication disclosure differ between federal, state and local levels. However, some general patterns emerge:

  • Federal background checks – Deferred adjudication typically appears on FBI checks since they compile state records. Federal laws don’t restrict this disclosure.
  • State background checks – Many states allow deferred adjudication to remain on state background checks indefinitely. But others limit reporting periods or allow expungement.
  • Local/county checks – Counties often disclose deferred adjudication during checks for housing, licensing, volunteering, etc. Local laws determine visibility periods.
  • Commercial checks – Private background screening companies usually reveal deferred adjudication charges and probation details.

So at all levels, deferred adjudication frequently shows up on background checks to some extent. Private employers are also allowed to ask about convictions and deferred adjudication in most states.

But state laws do impact the duration such records are accessible. Some states make deferred adjudication eligible for expungement after a set period, such as 5 years from the plea date. Others restrict reporting deferred adjudication after the probation term ends.

When is Deferred Adjudication Most Likely to be Disclosed?

Deferred adjudication disclosure depends on variables like the purpose of the background check, state laws, and period of time elapsed. But generally, deferred adjudication is most likely to appear in these scenarios:

  • During pre-employment background checks performed by private employers. Most states allow private employers to ask about and consider deferred adjudication.
  • On background checks for government and civil service jobs. Public agencies usually conduct thorough checks that uncover deferred adjudication.
  • During occupational licensing applications and checks. State licensing bureaus often thoroughly investigate criminal records, including deferred adjudication.
  • On applications for volunteer positions working with vulnerable groups like children, elderly, and disabled. Organizations will want to scrutinize all criminal issues.
  • When applying for legal entry to foreign countries. Other nations often require disclosing deferred adjudication charges.
  • Soon after the deferred adjudication period. More time must elapse before expungement or restricted reporting applies.

So in many important life situations, it’s likely your deferred adjudication will still be revealed and considered. Understanding this reality is key to wisely navigating future applications and background checks.

How Should I Handle Disclosure of Deferred Adjudication?

The best strategy is usually to be upfront about the deferred adjudication when asked on applications or background checks. Trying to hide it can look dishonest if it later appears on the actual background check report.

When disclosing, emphasize that no conviction occurred and you completed probation successfully. Provide any proof of compliance and evidence of rehabilitation such as program certificates and positive reference letters.

If not asked directly, you may not need to voluntarily mention the deferred adjudication upfront. But be prepared to honestly disclose and discuss it if questioned later.

For sensitive positions like jobs in healthcare, childcare, elder care, or financial services, voluntarily explaining the situation early can demonstrate responsibility and integrity.

Overall, handling deferred adjudication transparently, cooperatively and professionally can alleviate concerns. Present yourself as a candid and conscientious person despite the past mistake.

Are There Options to Limit Reporting of Deferred Adjudication?

The ability to restrict access to deferred adjudication records varies by state. Some options may include:

  • Expungement – A few states expunge deferred adjudication after a set time, such as 5 years. This removes it from background checks.
  • Non-disclosure – Texas allows deferred adjudication to become non-disclosable after successful probation completion. But many exceptions apply.
  • Pardons – In some states, an executive pardon for deferred adjudication charges can enable record-sealing.

Consult an attorney to understand options in your state. But even expungement is not guaranteed to remove deferred adjudication from all background checks. Avoid making serious life decisions based on assumptions that your record has been cleared.

Key Considerations When Evaluating Deferred Adjudication Impacts

If you’re contemplating a deferred adjudication plea deal, weigh these potential consequences carefully before deciding:

  • How could disclosure impact your life goals regarding career, licensing, housing, international travel or adopting a child?
  • What options exist in your state to limit reporting or expunge deferred adjudication records? What are the eligibility conditions and time periods?
  • How will you discuss the deferred adjudication if questioned by employers, volunteer agencies, licensing boards and others?
  • Are you prepared to explain the situation responsibly to show remorse, lessons learned and personal growth?

Thinking through these types of questions will help you make an informed decision about accepting deferred adjudication in your case.


Although deferred adjudication prevents a formal conviction, it will likely still appear during many crucial background checks. State laws and individual circumstances impact the reporting period and potential for expungement.

Being transparent and demonstrating rehabilitation efforts is usually wise when deferred adjudication appears. Understanding the nuances of deferred adjudication visibility on background checks in your state is vital for charting your future wisely.

Key Takeaways:

  • Deferred adjudication will likely be revealed on most background checks despite avoiding a conviction.
  • Disclosure laws vary but often allow deferred adjudication to appear indefinitely.
  • Private employers, licensing agencies and foreign countries frequently consider deferred adjudication.
  • Upfront honesty about the charges is usually the best approach if questioned.
  • Consulting an attorney is important to understand state laws and potential options related to your deferred adjudication record.

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