In Florida, a person who pleads guilty or no-contest to a criminal charge or who goes to trial and is found guilty of a criminal charge will be sentenced by a Judge. The Judge can sentence someone to an ADJUDICATION OF GUILT or the Judge can WITHHOLD ADJUDICATION OF GUILT.
If the Judge adjudicates you guilty, it means you have been formally found guilty of the crime and you are convicted of the crime. For both misdemeanor and felony convictions, this will be on your permanent record. For felony charges, you will be a convicted felon and face many restrictions of your liberties (i.e. unable to vote, possess firearms, denied certain employment, etc). You must be convicted in order to be sentenced to jail or prison time. Additionally:
- If you are convicted of a drug offense, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) may suspend your driver’s license for two years.
- If you plea guilty, no contest, or are found guilty by a jury of a DUI, you must be ADJUDICATED GUILTY.
- If you are adjudicated guilty of any crime, you are not eligible to have that crime or any other crime (prior or subsequent) sealed or expunged from your record.
If the Judge withholds adjudication of guilt, it means you have not been formally found guilty of the crime and there is no conviction. It is possible to plea guilty to a crime but still receive a withhold of adjudication and thus, not be convicted of the crime. However, for punishment, the Judge can still order you to probation or other sanctions.
- If you receive a withhold of adjudication of guilt, you can lawfully deny being convicted of a crime.
- You may also be eligible to have your criminal record sealed.