"Withheld Adjudication" or "Adjudication Withheld" generally refers to a decision by a judge to put a person on probation without an adjudication of guilt. It means a person is not found guilty legally by the court. If the person successfully completes the terms of probation and has no subsequent offenses, no further action with be taken on the case and the offense for which adjudication was withheld is typically not considered a prior conviction for purposes of habitual offender sentencing. If the person does not complete the terms of probation, a finding of guilty may be entered and the person may be sentenced according to the punishments defined for the offense.
The usual purpose in stopping criminal proceedings short of judgment is avoidance of the undesirable effects of conviction, which effects can include both unnecessary harm to the offender and unnecessary expense or harm to the public interest. "Withholding adjudication," as defined here, places the subject in a status where the court retains jurisdiction but will not re-open proceedings unless the person violates a condition of behavior.
"Adjudication Withheld" is an important category of defendant dispositions. The term is here defined for statistical use to account for those cases which receive what is sometimes effectively a sentencing disposition but one occurring without conviction.