If you find yourself in the unenviable position of having to consider pleading guilty or no contest to a crime, you will want to consider what type of sentencing option will be best for you. This article explores four sentencing options in Texas state court. Now all four of these options may not be available in every case, but the purpose of this article is to explore what it means to be punished by incarceration, probation deferred adjudication, or pretrial diversion.

Sentencing Options

While every case is different and there are several possible ways to dispose of case (including trial-which is for another article), the four primary ways a case is sentenced after a plea of guilty or no contest is incarceration, probation (also called community supervision), deferred adjudication (also called unadjudicated probation), and pretrial diversion.  Below will will look at each.  All of the possibilities listed below could also include a fine.


We will begin with looking at being sentenced to jail or prison time. In that case you will spend whatever the sentence is in correctional facility of some type.  Time incarcerated is usually spent in a county jail or a state prison, but it can also be spent in other lock-down facilities like a drug treatment center.

If the crime is a misdemeanor, you will most likely do your time in county jail. In most counties you will get credit for more time than you actually spend in jail.  This is called good-time credit.  For instance,  you may get credit for two days for every actual day you spend incarcerated.  So on a 60 day sentence you will only have to spend 30 actual days.  In certain circumstances you can get three for one cutting you jail time considerably.

If the crime is a felony, you will most likely go to a prison or a state jail facility.  Unlike a county jail, you do not get good-time while in a state jail facility.  You will serve your time day-for-day.  If your time is spent in prison, you will get good-time and other credits to your time in prison.  However, the good-time does not completely release you from your sentence.  If you get enough credit, you may be released from the prison prior to your sentence being completed.  If this happens, you will be released on parole.  While on parole, you will be required to report to a parole officer and follow a set of rules.  Some (but certainly not all) of the possible rules that you might be required to follow are:

  1.  Stay out of trouble. Any subsequent offense that you commit while on parole could be cause to have your parole status revoked,
  2. Submit to random drug and alcohol tests. A dirty test could get you revoked,
  3. Home or work visits by the probation department. They can show up any time to check on you,
  4. Get and keep a job.

With any incarceration you will have a conviction on your record. However once you complete your sentence (or get off parole), that completes your punishment, and you won’t have to abide by any additional rules.


If you are sentenced to probation, the Court will give you a sentence of incarceration but the sentence is suspended while you are on probation. If you don’t successfully complete probation, you can serve up to the entire sentence of incarceration you originally received. Most importantly, even if you successfully complete the probation you will still have a conviction on your record.

Similarly to parole listed above, probation will typically include monthly visits with the probation department as well as any number of other requirements which could include the following:

  1. Stay out of trouble. Any subsequent offense that you commit while on probation could be cause to have your community supervision revoked,
  2. Submit to random drug and alcohol tests. A dirty test could get you revoked,
  3. Home or work visits by the probation department. They can show up any time to check on you,
  4. Get and keep a job,
  5. Pay costs of court and any fines as well as monthly probation fees. Probation fees in Texas can be up to $60.00 a month.
  6. Community service.

Deferred Adjudication

Deferred adjudication means that you plead guilty or no contest, and a Judge will find that there is enough evidence to find you guilty, but will put off that finding of guilt for a set amount of time and subject to certain conditions. Basically it is like being on probation, but if you successfully complete all the terms and conditions of the deferred adjudication, the State will dismiss the case against you and you will not have a final conviction. At the time you plea, the court will put off sentencing you unless your community supervision is revoked. If that happens, the Court can sentence you up to the most severe penalty allowed without a trial.  You would be required to follow the same rules and restrictions that a regular probationer does.  Deferred adjudication is available for both misdemeanors and felonies, but can only be awarded if you plead guilty or no contest, and not after a finding of guilt by a jury after a trial.

Pretrial Diversion

Pretrial diversion is very similar to deferred adjudication, but has one major difference from the three prior sentencing options – the Court is not involved.  The choice to offer a pretrial diversion rests completely with the prosecutor and if you complete it, you case is diverted from the court system.  Typically, pretrial diversions are similar to probation, in that no incarceration is included and there are rules that must be followed while completed the pretrial diversion.  Every prosecutor’s office does them differently, but generally they are quicker to complete than any of the other options and almost exclusively offer to first-time offenders.  Upon completion of a pretrial diversion, the case is dismissed or refused (if it hasn’t been filed yet).  But, regardless of how it may be done, upon completion, there is no conviction.

Final Thoughts on Sentencing

There are pros and cons to each of these four sentencing options.  Every county, every court, and every case is different.  It is important to discuss your options with your attorney before being making any decisions about sentencing.