What is Deferred Disposition?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 February 2020
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Deferred disposition represents a court process that permits a defendant to serve a short probationary period and avoid a conviction on his or her record. The defendant commonly pleads guilty or no contest to an offense, pays a fine, and adheres to conditions imposed by the court. Deferred disposition exists in some regions for minor crimes like traffic violations, public intoxication, and theft. It protects an offender who makes a mistake from a criminal record and other potential consequences.

This procedure is commonly used for traffic tickets, but might be unavailable to drivers who possess a commercial driver’s license. Motorists who speed beyond set limits also might not qualify for a diversion program. These programs focus on lesser violations of the law to give the offender an opportunity to avoid demerits on his or her driver’s license and a potential increase in insurance rates.

A typical component of deferred disposition includes a short probationary period. The offender is generally not required to check in with a probation officer during this time, but must refrain from any further violations of the law. He or she usually pays the normal fine for the traffic infraction, plus a fee to the court. Traffic school might also be ordered in some regions.


Once the violator completes probation and pays required fines, the conviction is dismissed. If he or she fails to meet all the conditions for deferred disposition, a judge could enter an order declaring the defendant guilty. These records generally go to agencies that monitor driving records and issue drivers’ licenses.

Some jurisdictions favor using deferred disposition with juveniles who commit crimes. Parents are commonly responsible for ensuring their child follows through with conditions of the program and notifying the court if a violation occurs. The juvenile offender typically waives the right to a speedy disposition of the case and admits to the crime. He or she might pay restitution if the offense involves a victim who suffers a financial loss.

If a juvenile commits a violent or sexual crime, the program is usually not an option. Deferred disposition is also routinely denied to a minor with a prior felony or a history of criminal activity. In some areas, deferred disposition is not available to a youth previously granted the option.

Deferred disposition is sometimes confused with deferred adjudication, which happens when a judge delays finding a defendant guilty of a crime. An offender is usually placed on formal probation and required to make regular visits to an assigned probation officer when granted deferred adjudication. It is commonly used in drug cases to give the defendant an opportunity to seek treatment.


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