Does a Guilty Verdict Without An Adjudication Constitute a Conviction for Purposes of Impeachment ?
In Barber v. State, 413 So. 2d 482 (Fla. 2d DCA 1982), the Second District framed the issue as whether "a jury verdict of guilty without an adjudication of guilt constitutes a conviction for purposes of impeachment." 413 So. 2d at 482.
During direct examination, the defendant testified that he had no prior criminal convictions. See id.
One week earlier in another case, a jury had returned a guilty verdict against the defendant but he had not yet been adjudicated guilty by the court. See id.
The trial court allowed the State to impeach with the jury verdict even though the defendant had not yet been adjudicated guilty. See id.
The Second District affirmed, holding that "for purposes of impeachment, there is no significant difference in probative value between a jury's finding of guilt and the entry of a judgment thereon." Id. at 484.
However, the Second District also recognized that "an anomaly will occur if the court ultimately chooses to withhold adjudication and place appellant on probation for the crime of which the jury had previously found him guilty.
Should this happen, appellant cannot thereafter be impeached by evidence concerning that crime." Id.
In Johnson v. State, 449 So. 2d 921 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984), the First District addressed the issue of whether a witness could be impeached with a prior plea of guilty where the court had not yet adjudicated the witness guilty. 449 So. 2d at 922-23.
The First District agreed with Barber that the witness could be impeached pursuant to section 90.610 even though adjudication had not yet taken place. See Johnson, 449 So. 2d at 923.
As to the possibility that adjudication might be withheld, the First District also agreed with the dicta in Barber that the witness could not be impeached by evidence concerning a prior crime where the court withheld adjudication. See id. (citing Barber, 413 So. 2d at 484).
In contrast to Barber and Johnson, the Fourth District in Roberts v. State, 450 So. 2d 1126, 1126-27 (Fla. 4th DCA 1984), reversed after determining that the State's attempt to impeach the defendant with a prior conviction was improper because the trial court in the earlier case had not yet adjudicated him guilty.
Accord Parker v. State, 563 So. 2d 1130, 1131 (Fla. 5th DCA 1990) (agreeing with concurring opinion of Justice Anstead (then Chief Judge) in Roberts and concluding that impeachment on the basis of a prior conviction was improper if the defendant had not yet been adjudicated guilty).