When a person is convicted of a crime, judges usually have some discretion regarding what sentence to mete out even in states that have mandatory sentencing rules. Laws often allow the judge to impose a sentence that is appropriate for the circumstances of the case. In some jurisdictions, such as Idaho and Florida, one of the judge’s options is to use a withheld judgment, also known as withhold of adjudication.
The Avoidance of a Criminal Record
A withheld judgment can allow the defendant to avoid a having a criminal conviction on his record. At the time of sentencing, the judge informs the defendant of the terms he must meet, which can include a probationary period, restitution fees paid to the court and victim, and rarely, jail time. The judge does not, however, enter the conviction as a judgment. If the defendant successfully completes all the terms of his probation and other sentencing requirements, the case is closed without entry of the judgment and the defendant's record remains clear. If, however, the defendant violates his probation terms, the court enters the original judgment and the conviction becomes a part of the defendant's permanent record.
Long-term Effects of a Criminal Conviction
A criminal record can have a devastating impact on an individual’s life, especially when it comes to getting a job. This can be overly harsh for a first-time offender who is unlikely to commit another crime, especially in relatively minor cases. The withheld judgment allows a defendant to pay for his crime while avoiding the lifelong stigma of a criminal conviction.