“Deferred” is a legal way of saying that a decision has been postponed. Someone who has been charged with a crime or infraction is typically placed on probation or given a suspended sentence for a period of time, and if all goes well, the charges are dismissed at the end of this probationary period.
Deferred dispositions apply to traffic offenses in Texas. The exact rules can differ by city, but the Texas deferred adjudication statute provides the option to local courts and gives a detailed overview of various requirements.
What Violations Qualify?
The nature of the offense is the first component in determining whether a driver qualifies for a deferred disposition. Moving violations and insurance violations are typically eligible, as are bicycle offenses, non-motorized vehicle offenses, driver’s license infractions and parking violations. It can vary depending on the city.
Eligibility can be denied for any offense under certain circumstances, including:
- When the violation occurred in a construction zone where workers were present.
- When the driver held a commercial license at the time of the violation, even if he was driving for personal reasons when the violation occurred.
- When the violation involved driving 25 to 29 miles an hour over the speed limit, depending on the city, particularly when the request is being made for deferred adjudication of a speeding ticket.
- When the violation involved driving at 90 to 95 miles an hour or more, depending on the city.
- When the driver passed a school bus.
- When the driver left the scene of an accident.
- When the driver was granted a deferred disposition in another matter within the last 12 months.
Terms of a Deferred Disposition
A deferred disposition requires that the driver take – or not take – certain actions during the probationary period. Depending on the city and the infraction, these can include:
- Not committing another moving violation in the same city.
- Paying any and all fines or restitution that are ordered, and these are typically increased by $25 in the case of a deferred disposition.
- Posting bond in the amount of the fine, which is often required.
- Taking a driver’s safety course if the defendant is younger than age 25.
- Taking a Department of Public Safety test if the defendant was driving on a provisional license.
- Submitting to counseling, drug or alcohol testing, or drug or alcohol abuse treatment.
Probationary periods typically last up to 180 days, but they can be as short as 90 days in some jurisdictions.
How to Ask for a Deferred Disposition
In Austin, juveniles under age 17 must appear in court to make the request, and certain violations require an appearance as well in both Houston and Austin. Otherwise, defendants can usually submit an application form, including required documentation that can depend on the offense, by mail or in person.
Houston allows defendants to make the request by phone, as well as by mail or in person, but applicants must also post bond, which can exceed $300. Frisco requires making a “no contest” plea first, but defendants can apply online in this city. Grand Prairie requires that the request be made prior to a court appearance, as well as making a plea of guilty or no contest.
The Ultimate Outcome
Ideally, a defendant’s case will be dismissed after successful completion of the probation period, but they'll be found guilty and the infraction or violation will be placed on their record if any and all conditions aren’t been met. Some cities, however, allow the defendant to provide an acceptable reason for not complying.
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