A stay of adjudication in Nevada allows eligible defendants to avoid a criminal conviction by completing a diversion program or other court orders such as paying fines, performing community service, and doing rehab. But if the defendant does not complete the court-ordered requirements, the judge will convict the defendant of the underlying charge without a trial.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys answer these frequently-asked-questions:
- 1. What is a stay of adjudication?
- 2. Is an adjudication a conviction?
- 3. What are the benefits?
- 4. What are the drawbacks?
- 5. What if the defendant violates the terms?
- 6. Who is eligible for a stay of adjudication in Nevada?
- 7. Does a stay of adjudication keep the defendant’s criminal record clear?
- 8. What is the difference between a stay of adjudication and a submittal?
1. What is a stay of adjudication?
In Nevada, a stay of adjudication – also called “deferred adjudication” – is when the judge postpones making a ruling on a criminal case until the defendant fulfills (or fails to fulfill) certain court orders. Ten typical court orders include:
- paying a fine
- paying restitution
- completing community service
- completing a course of counseling
- completing an online court education class
- completing rehab
- completing a diversion program
- submitting to drug tests
- submitting to searches by law enforcement
- staying on house arrest for a period of time
Stayed adjudications can last a few months or several years.
If the defendant completes the stayed adjudication requirements, the judge will dismiss the case. If the defendant does not complete the requirements, the judge will convict the defendant of the underlying charge.1
2. Is adjudication a conviction?
No, an adjudication is the process where the judge determines (“adjudicates”) whether to convict the defendant of a criminal charge.
Hence, a stay of adjudication is where the judge suspends deciding the defendant’s fate in order to give him or her a chance to complete various court orders and earn a dismissal.
3. What are the benefits?
A stay of adjudication is like a “delayed dismissal” of criminal charges in Nevada. As long as the defendant follows the court orders, the judge will not find the defendant guilty of the underlying charge. And the defendant will avoid a criminal conviction.
Once the criminal charge gets dismissed, the defendant is then free to petition for a record seal right away. (Nevada does not have record expungements.)2
4. What are the drawbacks?
In order to get a stay of adjudication, defendants have to plead guilty or no contest. This means they give up their right to a trial. And if defendants fail to complete all the court orders, the court will accept the guilty verdict and immediately convict them.
But as long as a defendant completes all the court orders, the judge will disregard the guilty plea and dismiss the case.
5. What if the defendant violates the terms?
If Nevada prosecutors believe that a defendant violated the terms of his/her stay of adjudication, then the defendant is entitled to a court hearing on the alleged violation. If the judge finds that the defendant did violate the terms, then he/she will be immediately convicted and likely sentenced to prison or jail time.
6. Who is eligible for a stay of adjudication in Nevada?
Eligibility depends on the case. Sometimes the defense attorney and prosecutor negotiate a deal that includes a stay of adjudication. Sometimes the judge grants it on his/her own authority. Sometimes the right to a stay of adjudication is written into the law itself.
For example, stays of adjudication are standard for a first offense of drug possession (NRS 453.336) in Nevada. As long as the defendant completes a drug education program, rehab, and/or any other requirements the court imposes, the judge will dismiss the proceedings without entering a conviction.3
Predictably, courts are more likely to grant stays of adjudication to first-time defendants rather than to repeat offenders.
7. Does a stay of adjudication keep the defendant’s criminal record clear?
Yes and no. A stay of adjudication keeps a conviction from showing up on the defendant’s criminal record as long as he/she completes all the court-ordered terms. But successfully completing the terms of a stay of adjudication does not prevent the defendant’s initial arrest or citation from showing up on their record.
Therefore, defendants who get their case dismissed following a stay of adjudication should immediately begin the record seal process. Once the record gets sealed, the initial arrest or citation will no longer show up on their background checks.4
8. What is the difference between a stay of adjudication and a submittal?
A submittal works similarly to a stay of adjudication in the Nevada criminal justice system. In both circumstances, the court delays judgment until after the defendant performs various court orders. If the defendant is successful, the judge will then dismiss the case without ever having entered a conviction. But there are two key differences:
- Submittals are available only in Nevada misdemeanor cases, not Nevada felony cases; and
- Submittals do not require that the defendant enter a guilty plea first.
Therefore submittals are always preferable to stays of adjudication if possible.5
Our Las Vegas, NV criminal defense lawyers offer consultations in the state of Nevada, from Clark County (including Henderson and North Las Vegas) to Carson City. We represent people facing criminal charges for DUI, domestic violence, theft, sex crimes, drug crimes, driver’s license offenses, and more.
- See, for example, In Re Iarussi (2020) 474 P.3d 335 ;
- NRS 179.255.
- See, for example, Nevada Revised Statute 453.3363 – Suspension of proceedings and probation of accused under certain conditions; effect of discharge and dismissal. See also Hohenstein v. Nev. Empl. Sec. Div., (2015) 131 Nev. 132, 346 P.3d 365, 131 Nev. Adv. Rep. 17, 2015.
- See note 2.
- See 174.031 – .034.