Non-adjudication is the process of allowing a first-time, nonviolent defendant to complete certain conditions and avoid a conviction on their record. Mississippi’s nonadjudication process is similar to Louisiana’s pre-trial diversion program. In both states, your criminal defense attorney must specifically ask for the prosecutor and judge’s consent to allow you to enter into the program.
- You must not have a prior felony conviction, and you can only participate in the nonadjudication process one time. Even if you are a first time offender, if you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony that involves distribution of drugs or a crime against a person, you will not be eligible. Examples of crimes against a person are violent crimes like negligent homicide, armed robbery and rape.
- If you qualify, you will enter a guilty plea, but the judge will hold the plea in a non-adjudicated status and order you to fulfill certain conditions. These conditions can include not committing another crime, attending classes or counseling, drug testing, community service, and paying fines and restitution. If you fail to fulfill the conditions, the judge may take you out of the program and you will have a guilty plea and a conviction on your record. If you successfully fulfill all requirements, your charges will be dismissed and your criminal record expunged.
A real life example: My criminal defense law firm recently represented a client who was charged with misdemeanor shoplifting. The client had no priors and was a good candidate for the nonadjudication process. We requested that the prosecutor enter my client into the process and the judge agreed, with the following conditions – my client must maintain an A average in college, perform 30 hours of community service and report back to the judge in six months. If she does not maintain the A average for the six month period, the judge will then accept her guilty plea and give her a sentence. If she makes As and does the community service hours, the shoplifting charge will be dismissed.
In this sense, the nonadjudicated plea is like the classic Sword of Damocles hanging over your head. Stay out of trouble and you can keep a felony or misdemeanor of your record. Get in trouble while you have this plea hanging over you, and you will be adjudicated guilty and suffer the consequences.