I Just Pled to the Charge, Now What is Happening?

A guide to understanding the sentencing process:

When one choses to plead to criminal charges, there are several terms that officers of the court (judges & attorneys) use in the execution and imposition of the sentence. If you are unfamiliar with them, it can be very confusing. My hope, is that this legal guide will help you understand.

1. Adjudication of Guilt- This means you have been found to have committed a criminal act. You are guilty of committing that act and you are being convicted of a crime. Once you have been convicted of a crime, you are no longer eligible to seal or expunge your record. If you are adjudicated guilty of a felony, then you lose certain civil rights.

2. Withhold of Adjudication- This means you have been found to have committed a criminal act, but you are not being convicted of committing a crime. This will not preclude you from sealing your record, but it will preclude you from expunging it. If you are facing a felony and you receive a withhold of adjudication, then your civil rights will not be taken away from you. However, This also eliminates may statutorily mandatory penalties upon conviction of certain crimes. For example, if you are adjudicated guilty of possession or marijuana, the judge is required to suspend your driver’s license. If you receive a withhold of adjudication then there is no mandatory suspension. Keep in mind, there are many charges for which the court does not have the power to withhold adjudication. In those cases, if you are found guilty, you must be convicted.

3. Pre-trial Intervention (PTI)- PTI is a means of resolving your criminal matter outside the court system. It can be used for both misdemeanors and certain felonies. It is essentially an agreement between you and the State that you will perform certain functions (like completing community services, taking classes, or paying money) and upon completion the State will drop the charges. This is advantages because it preserves both your ability to seal and expunge the charge.

4. Adjudication of Delinquency- This is similar to an adjudication of guilt. You have been found to have committed a delinquent act and are convicted of committing a delinquent act. By the letter of the law, it is different from an adult committing a crime. Records for delinquency have an expiration process by which records are no longer kept after five years from your eighteenth birthday. Although technically different from conviction of a crime, there are many mandatory sentencing requirements that treat an adjudication of delinquency the same as a conviction; perhaps the most significant being registration as a sexual offender. Regardless whether you are adjudicated guilty, adjudicated delinquent, or receive a withhold of adjudication, if you are found to have committed a crime which requires registration, then you must register. The only exclusion being a withhold of adjudication of delinquency.

5. Withhold adjudication of delinquency- This is about the most benign form of judgment for which one can hope. It is similar to a withhold of adjudication of a crime but it applies to juvenile petitions for delinquency. It means you have been found to have committed a delinquent act but are not being found to be a delinquent.

6. Restitution- A person is responsible for the financial loss of another as a result of their criminal act. The types of losses for which one may recover is different, and more limited, in criminal court than civil court. For example, if you punch someone and knock out a tooth, you can be held both criminally responsible and civilly responsible. In the criminal case, you could be ordered to pay restitution for the cost of fixing/replacing the tooth. If that same person sued you for civil battery, you could also be responsible for pain and suffering or other collateral damages that you would not be responsible for in the criminal case.

7. Violation of Probation- If you have been placed on probation and are accused of violating either the general or specific terms of your probation then you may go before the court on a violation of probation proceeding. There are some important things to know.

a. You can be punished up to the maximum possible punishment minus any time you have already served in incarceration.

b. The State does not have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, it only has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that you violated your probation.

c. It has to be substantial and meaningful violation. This can be confusing because missing only one meeting with your probation officer is considered substantial and meaningful, even if you don’t think so.

d. You don’t have rights prohibiting self-incrimination. Although you do have many of the other criminal constitutional rights, you can be called to testify against yourself.

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