The term “adjudication” is used to describe the formal giving of a judgment or decision by a judge in a court of law. For example, an adjudication is made after all of the applicable evidence has been reviewed, including the legal arguments put forth by both sides’ attorneys. Once all of that information has been collectively weighed, the judge is then empowered to make a decision on the matter at hand. To explore this concept, consider the following adjudication definition.

Definition of Adjudication


  1. The formal issuing of a judgment or decision by a judge after all of the evidence has been reviewed, and after both lawyers have made their arguments in court.


1685-95           Late Latin         (adjūdicātiōn)

What is Adjudication?

Adjudication is the process by which a formal judgment or decision is made, after the adjudicator has heard all of the arguments in the matter, and has reviewed all of the relevant exhibits. For example, an adjudication is made upon the conclusion of a trial.

During a trial, both sides present the evidence they have available to support their case. They also argue the reasons why their client should prevail. Once the trial is over and all of the evidence has been submitted and arguments heard, the judge then collects all of this information together and makes a decision based on the facts presented.


An adjudicator is what it sounds like: a person who has the authority to issue an adjudication. An adjudicator can be anyone from a judge presiding over a court of law, to an arbitrator who was officially appointed to settle a dispute out of court. An adjudicator can even be a judge in the Olympic games. Essentially, the duties of the job are to preside over and judge a dispute or competition. The adjudicator simplifies things by determining which party in a disagreement is, in fact, in the right.

Deferred Adjudication

A deferred adjudication example can be any of the following things:

  • An adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACOD)
  • Probation before judgment (PBJ)
  • Deferred entry of judgment (DEJ)

What all of these things have in common is that they are potential forms of a plea deal that may be offered to a defendant in a criminal matter. With a deferred adjudication, the defendant must carry out what is required of him by the court by a certain date, and in return he can plead either “guilty” or “no contest” to the charges against him. Such requirements can include:

  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Drug or alcohol rehab

Despite completing these requirements and receiving a deferred adjudication, the case may not be completely erased from the defendant’s permanent record. However, by completing the requirements as ordered, he may be able to prevent the conviction from being recorded. He may even be able to help his case get dismissed and/or expunged.

Some cases remain a part of the public record, even if they are dismissed. And some cases, while not part of the public record, can be accessed by law enforcement later on, or by government officials when completing a background check for a job candidacy. With a deferred adjudication, however, a defendant may be able to have the case completely erased, which means that his name won’t even turn up in these limited circumstances.

Withhold of Adjudication

A withhold of adjudication has been misinterpreted as a conviction when it is not that at all. For example, adjudication is typically withheld by a judge if the defendant does not have any prior convictions on his record. If the adjudication is withheld, that means the defendant is ordered to pay sanctions, but the judge does not officially convict the defendant of the crime(s) he is being charged with.

In some cases, the judge will issue a withhold even if the defendant does have prior convictions on his record. Here, the charges against the defendant are not dropped because only the State Attorney’s office can drop the charges. Instead, the case officially ends without a conviction.

This is beneficial to the defendant because he does not have to admit that he was ever convicted of a felony on his job application because it’s true – he never was. He is also permitted to own a firearm, and he still has access to his civil rights, like the ability to vote, the ability to serve on a jury, and the ability to appear as a witness in another case.

Adjudication vs. Arbitration

When a dispute arises, some people prefer arbitration – settling a matter outside of court, with an arbiter presiding – over bringing the matter to court, while others would rather do the opposite. Each process, of course, has its own positives and negatives. Consider the following elements of adjudication vs. arbitration that parties weigh when determining how a dispute should be handled.


Arbitration typically provides a much quicker resolution than going through the court system. This is, in part, because the courts are so overwhelmed with cases that each meeting before the court can be months away from the last one.  In addition, if arbitration turns into a legal proceeding, there is a limited right to appeal. While this speeds up the process, it also means that there are fewer opportunities to challenge whatever decision is made in the end.


It used to be that arbitration was far less expensive than taking the matter to court. It is still less expensive, yes, but much of the expenses involved in a court case revolve around discovery – a process of information gathering that has been gaining support in arbitration as well. It makes sense, too. If you are limited in what you can appeal in a decision after arbitration, then you should be sure that any and all evidence is brought to the forefront to support your case before that final decision is made.


Arbitration can be significantly more beneficial than the judicial process because when you hire an arbiter, you are able to choose someone with specific knowledge of the industry in dispute. A judge is appointed to a case randomly, and may not be equipped with expertise the necessary to make a fully formed decision on the matters at hand. This is also part of the reason why appeals in arbitration are limited. An arbiter knows the industry that he’s presiding over well enough that when he makes a final decision, he is rarely in the wrong.

When it comes to employment, especially for contractor roles, many companies have job applicants acknowledge that they agree to participate in arbitration if things go south. This way, the company can push for a speedy resolution without expending what can potentially be thousands of dollars in attorney fees and court costs.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Defendant – A party against whom a lawsuit has been filed in civil court, or who has been accused of, or charged with, a crime or offense.
  • Expungement – The act of blotting out, erasing, or wiping out a record.
  • Sanctions – A penalty which is threatened as the result of a failure to obey the rules or the law, depending on the situation.
  • Trial – A formal presentation of evidence before a judge and jury for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence in a criminal case, or to make a determination in a civil matter.