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Is Deferred Adjudication Available for DWI Charges in Texas?

Ben Michael

Under some circumstances, deferred adjudication is available for first-time DWI offenders in Texas. If you have no prior DWI convictions and meet the other eligibility requirements, your DWI attorney could seek deferred adjudication. 

If you complete community supervision, the court will dismiss the DWI charge, allowing you to avoid a formal conviction. The DWI charges will remain on your record unless you apply to get them sealed through an order of nondisclosure.

In this comprehensive guide to deferred adjudication for DWI in Texas, we’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of deferred adjudication, the eligibility requirements according to Texas law, and answer some frequently asked questions.

What Is Deferred Adjudication for DWI?

A DWI conviction can irrevocably impact the life of a first-time offender. Having that kind of criminal record can prevent you from pursuing certain professions, get in the way of promotions, and cause financial hardship. 

Along with incarceration and hefty fines, the long-term consequences of a DWI can be a harsh burden for someone who may have made a one-time mistake.

This is where deferred adjudication comes in. Deferred adjudication is a type of probation that a judge can grant first-time offenders. It means that they defer or postpone the adjudication pending the successful completion of community supervision. The charges are dismissed once community supervision has ended, the terms have been met, and all outstanding fines and restitution have been paid.

Deferred adjudication is not as preferable as getting your case dismissed outright, but in circumstances where an outright dismissal is not a possibility, it could be the best possible outcome—it means you won’t have a conviction on your record.

However, not everyone is eligible for deferred adjudication, and not everyone who successfully completes their community supervision will be able to have their DWI charges sealed through an order of nondisclosure. If you’ve been charged with a DWI in Texas, whether it’s your first offense or not, the best thing you can do to protect your future is to contact an experienced DWI attorney. Call Michael & Associates today to secure a free case review.

How to Secure Deferred Adjudication for DWI in Texas

To secure a deferred adjudication, the judge must first listen to the evidence against you and find the prosecution’s case strong enough to prove your guilt. If your attorney has arranged a deferred adjudication plea bargain with the prosecution, you’ll be required to enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere (no contest). 

In other words, you take responsibility for the offense, and, in return, the judge withholds the conviction, instead offering you the chance to complete community supervision.

“…when in the judge’s opinion the best interest of society and the defendant will be served, the judge may, after receiving a plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere, hearing the evidence, and finding that it substantiates the defendant’s guilt, defer further proceedings without entering an adjudication of guilt, and place the defendant on community supervision.”

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 42.12, sec. 5

However, for this to be possible, you must meet the eligibility requirements for deferred adjudication.

Criteria and Conditions for DWI Deferred Adjudication in Texas

Deferred Adjudication is only available to first-time offenders, but not all DWI offenses will qualify. 

To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:

  • This is your first DWI
  • You do not have a commercial driver’s license (CDL holders will not be eligible for deferred adjudication)
  • The DWI did not result in injury or death of another person
  • The DWI did not result in an accident that caused damage to another person’s property
  • Your BAC was below 0.15, or your attorney has negotiated with the prosecutor to have this enhancement waived.

In order to successfully complete community supervision, you must comply with the conditions set out by the judge, including attendance at all probation meetings, submitting to random chemical testing, attending alcohol education classes, fitting an ignition interlock device, and any other court orders.

If you fail to comply, your deferred adjudication can be revoked, and your case will go back to court where you would have, prior to your community supervision, already admitted guilt and waived your right to a jury trial.

Analysis of the Procedure

Below, we provide a general guideline of the stages involved in the deferred adjudication process in Texas. Remember, not all cases are identical, and the process can differ from county to county and case to case. You should speak to a criminal defense attorney for a more accurate overview of what to expect.

Preparation of Required Documents

Preparation is vital for a smooth and successful adjudication process. Your defense lawyer will help you file a petition for deferred adjudication and guide you on all the relevant documents and materials you may need. These may include (but are not limited to):

  • Sworn Statement of Eligibility: You may need to submit an affidavit confirming that you meet the eligibility criteria for deferred adjudication—for example, that this is your first DWI.
  • PSI Report: A Pre-Sentence Investigation report may sometimes be required. A probation officer prepares this report after you enter your plea. It contains details about the offense, your background, criminal history, personal circumstances, the amount of restitution you should pay, and recommendations for sentencing, including conditions of your deferred adjudication—for example, attending alcohol awareness or anger management classes.
  • Character References: Your defense attorney may recommend providing letters from reputable people within your community or workplace who can vouch for your good character.
  • Medical Records: If your medical condition has influenced your circumstances, your lawyer may recommend presenting any documents that can support or strengthen your case.
  • Financial Documents: If you have to pay restitution, you may need to provide financial documents to prove your ability to pay.

You may need to gather additional documents, such as a personal statement, depending on your circumstances.

Court Hearings and Decisions

Ultimately, the only person who can grant deferred adjudication in specific DWI cases is the judge, with the prosecutor’s agreement. During your initial hearing, they will evaluate all the evidence presented by the prosecution. They will take on board additional supporting evidence and documents, including pre-sentence investigation reports (if applicable), witness statements, and personal statements by the defense.

The judge will then assess the risks associated with granting deferred adjudication. Factors such as prior convictions, BAC level, character references, and personal circumstances can all influence the judge’s final decision on deferred adjudication.

Key Legal Considerations

A comprehensive research and analysis of the legal aspects associated with deferred adjudication for DWI will consist of evaluating the legal framework as well as applicable rules and regulations.

A key aspect is eligibility criteria according to Texas law. This includes factors such as BAC limit, prior DWIs, and the circumstances of the offense, all of which can impact eligibility for deferred adjudication.  

If eligible, the defense must comply with the procedural steps involved in petitioning for deferred adjudication, which includes gathering relevant evidence, documentation, and supporting materials.

Other critical aspects considered include the potential benefits of deferred adjudication in each individual case, the consequences of violating community supervision, precedents set by previous similar cases, ethical considerations, and more.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Deferred Adjudication

Deferred adjudication may be the best outcome for some people, but not everyone. Below, we explore the pros and cons of getting deferred adjudication instead of opting for a jury trial.


Successful completion of community supervision will mean you can sidestep a conviction.

  • If eligible, you can petition for nondisclosure to seal your record.
  • Deferred adjudication for a DWI in Texas usually means retaining your driving privileges, though you may need to fit an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
  • If you comply with all the conditions of your community supervision, complete all court-ordered classes and counseling, complete all service hours, and pay all outstanding fines, fees, and restitution, you can request a hearing to ask for early termination of your deferred adjudication.


  • You waive your right to a jury trial and will no longer be able to fight against the charges to prove your innocence.
  • If you violate your probation, you risk receiving the maximum sentence and fines because you would have, before community supervision, already entered a guilty plea.
  • Accepting deferred adjudication is costly. You will be expected to pay court fees, fines, and possibly restitution, in addition to funding any court-ordered classes, counseling, and fitting an ignition interlock device.
  • Even if you successfully complete your community supervision, there is a mandatory waiting period (of 2 or 5 years) before you can petition for an order of nondisclosure to have the charges sealed from your record.
  • Even if your record is sealed, the charges can be used to enhance a future DWI.
  • Even if your record is sealed, many agencies can still see the arrest and court records of your DWI. These entitled agencies listed under Texas Government Code 411.081(i) include the Texas Medical Board, the State Board for Educator Certification, the Board of Law Examiners, the Department of Family and Protective Services, the Texas Board of Nursing, banks and credit unions (but only regarding and employee), and more.

Remember, you can get more precise, tailored advice from a criminal defense lawyer who’s reviewed the details of your case. Deferred adjudication is not the only way to avoid a conviction, but it’s the best option for some people. If you’ve been charged with a DWI, time is of the essence. Contact Michael & Associates now to book a free case review.

Terms and Obligations in DWI Deferred Adjudication

The exact terms and conditions of deferred adjudication for first-time DWI offenders will vary depending on various factors, such as the details of the offense and your background.

Typical requirements and obligations for a DWI deferred adjudication include:

  • Abstaining from alcohol and controlled substances
  • Submitting to random chemical testing
  • Meetings with a probation officer
  • Paying all fees and fines
  • Performing the required community service hours
  • Avoiding committing any offenses during probation
  • Fitting an ignition interlock device
  • Attending alcohol awareness classes

Impact of Deferred Adjudication on Driver’s Licenses

Under normal circumstances, a first-time DWI conviction in Texas results in a driver’s license suspension for between 90 days and one year.

However, if you are granted deferred adjudication, your conviction is withheld, which means you may keep your driving privileges. That said, you may be required to fit an ignition interlock device as a condition of your community supervision.

Consequences of Violating DWI Deferred Adjudication

If you violate the terms and conditions of your deferred adjudication, the prosecution may ask the judge to convict you. Since you would have already admitted guilt, this could result in a sentence to any term—up to the maximum—in the statutory range. 

Aside from facing jail time, fines, and legal consequences, you will also have a permanent criminal record.

Expunging a DWI First Offense

A DWI, even a first offense, cannot be expunged from your records. If you are granted deferred adjudication and successfully complete community supervision, you may be able to petition the court for nondisclosure.

If granted an order of nondisclosure, the arrest, charges, and court records will be sealed from public view. However, they are not entirely deleted. This means that some government and certification agencies will still be able to see the record, and it can be used to enhance any future DWI offenses.

The advantage of having your criminal record sealed is that you won’t have to disclose information about your criminal history in response to questions on job applications or in applications to lenders.

An experienced DWI attorney can assess your individual circumstances, including the details of the alleged offense and your background, and give you tailored advice on what to expect, including the likely outcome of applying for deferred adjudication and the conditions you may face. 

Deferred adjudication isn’t always the best option. For example, if your lawyer reviews your case and finds errors in the arrest procedure, it may be possible to get your charges dismissed without the need for deferred adjudication.

Michael & Associates have secured outright DWI dismissals for many of our clients. Book a free case review today, and we can have an open and honest discussion about all the options available to you.

FAQs About Deferred Adjudication DWI Texas

Can a Deferred Adjudication be Expunged in Texas?

Deferred adjudication for a DWI offense cannot be expunged in Texas, but the arrest and charges can be sealed from the public through an order of nondisclosure. If granted, having your records sealed will mean that the charges and the deferred adjudication will no longer appear on some background checks.

What Occurs Following Deferred Adjudication in Texas?

If you are granted Deferred Adjudication, the judge withholds your conviction pending your completion of community supervision. As long as you adhere to the conditions of your community supervision, comply with any court-ordered classes, pay all associated fees and fines, and successfully complete your sentence, your case will be dismissed.

After the relevant waiting period has elapsed and you are eligible, you can apply to have your records sealed.

If you violate the terms of your community supervision, deferred adjudication will be revoked, and you will be convicted.

Does Deferred Adjudication Appear on a Texas Background Check?

Yes, deferred adjudication will appear on a Texas background check unless it is sealed through an order of nondisclosure. If you are eligible, you can have your record sealed. This will hide the deferred adjudication from public view.

However, to do so, you must meet the eligibility criteria, which include successfully completing community supervision and waiting until an applicable period has elapsed after the case dismissal—this is usually two years if an ignition interlock device was ordered to be installed in your vehicle, or five years if it wasn’t.

What Is the Cost of Expunging a DWI in Texas?

Typically, the cost of getting a DWI expunged or sealed can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. The exact costs will vary depending on individual circumstances and the complexity of individual cases. Associated costs include court, filing, and attorney fees—all of which can vary from county to county, your attorney’s fee structure, and other factors. The filing fee for an order of nondisclosure alone costs around $280.

Is It Possible to Appeal a Deferred Adjudication in Texas?

The grounds for appealing deferred adjudication are very limited since you will have to enter a guilty (or no contest) plea for deferred adjudication to be offered in the first place. To appeal, you must prove that the deferred adjudication is void because there’s no evidence against you. Unfortunately, your plea of guilt (no contest) may serve as “evidence” alone.

Navigating appellate courts and procedures can be complex. Your best chance is to seek tailored advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Ben Michael

Ben has vast experience in defending criminal cases ranging from DWIs to assault, drug possession, and many more. He has countless criminal charges dismissed and pled down. Among many other awards, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Texas and winner of Top 40 under 40.

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