Below we will explain:
- what does adjudication guilty mean.
- what does adjudication withheld mean.
- What is a nolle prosequi in Florida mean.
Not All Findings of Guilt Are Convictions in Florida
A conviction is when the court, after you have been found guilty, adjudicates you guilty of the offense. There are only a few possibilities that can occur in a criminal case and the court has options depending on the result:
- You’re arrested but the State Attorney’s Office never files charges against you.
- Court loses jurisdiction.
- The charges filed against you are dropped or dismissed.
- Prosecutor drops charges (nolle prosequi); court loses jurisdiction.
- Court dismisses charges; state has options.
- You are acquitted of the charges.
- State and Court lose jurisdiction.
- You are found guilty of the offense.
- Court must either;
- adjudicate you guilty (conviction)
- withhold the adjudication of guilt (not convicted)
- Court must either;
Note: Regardless of any of these outcomes, you have an arrest record.
A Florida Conviction Is …
After you have been found guilty of the charges against you, the court adjudicates you guilty. This is a conviction under Florida law and any conviction under Florida law or any other criminal statute will disqualify you from sealing or expunging any arrest record.
When you are arrested (either by handcuffs and jail or a Notice to Appear) a record is created. This is an arrest record. It does not matter if all charges are dropped – you have an arrest record.
The State Attorney’s Options
Upon receipt of the police report the State Attorney has several options. They can file:
- No Information Notice: Also called a No Bill, this means they are not filing formal charges. For most cases this means the case has been dropped. It does not mean the arrest record disappears.
- An Information: This is a formal charging document and it means they are going to pursue the charges listed against you.
- An Indictment: This is also a formal charge and requires the convening of a grand jury.
If You Are Formally Charged With A Criminal Offense
If you are charged and you enter a plea of guilty or no contest then you will be found guilty by the court. However, being found guilty does not mean you have been convicted.
The court, after finding you guilty, must then decide if you will be Adjudicated Guilty or if the court will grant a Withhold of the adjudication of guilt. This also applies when a jury finds you guilty after a trial.
Withhold Adjudication …
A withhold of adjudication means that the court’s decided not to convict you of the charges, even though you have been found guilty of committing them. If the court withholds the adjudication of guilt the court has not convicted you.
Withhold Adjudication and Sealing the Record
If the arrest record you want to get rid of resulted in a withhold of adjudication, that offense can be sealed providing you meet the other Florida expungement qualifications (i.e., you have (1) never been convicted of another offense and (2) you have never sealed or expunged a prior Florida arrest record).
What to Look For
The words you want to see on your “disposition” of your case are:
- withhold of adjudication
- adjudication withheld
- withhold the adjudication
- adjudication of guilt withheld
These are the best examples of the wording you may find on your disposition and any other similar description will also work. The magic word is any form or the word “withhold.”
Clarke v. United States, 184 So. 3d 1107, (Fla. 2016): This case gives the best explanation of the law about Florida’s ability to find someone guilty but not convict them of a crime. The Florida Supreme Court answered the question posed to them by the Eleventh Circuit Federal Court of Appeal (they were also confused).
Dropped (Nolle Prosequi), Dismissed, No Information
If you have been arrested the criminal charges may still go away.
- The State Attorney can file formal charges against you then decide to drop the case.
- The court can dismiss the case based on certain legal arguments by a lawyer.
- The State Attorney can decide to never file formal charges.
In these instances you have not been found guilty and you have not been convicted.
If the arrest record you want to get rid of resulted in the case being dropped, dismissed, or not filed on, you can expunge that record provided you meet the other qualifications.
For More Information
For more information about sealing or expunging your Florida criminal record contact me at anytime. I try to respond within 24 hours.
More information about Florida Expungements and Sealings:
- What is a Florida Expungement (Sealing)
- Qualifying for a Record Expungement (Sealing)
- Getting Started Expunging (Sealing) Your Arrest Record
- What to do after Your Record is Expunged (Sealed)