Most people that are arrested for a crime have simply made a mistake. It can be harsh to put someone behind bars for a moment of weakness that likely will never be repeated. In fact, many criminal offenders never commit another crime.
For years, criminal justice systems across the country all wanted to be tough on crime. That meant heavy penalties and high incarceration rates for all offenders. The unfortunate effect of these policies often meant high recidivism rates as well. It turns out harshly punishing first time offenders made it more likely they would end up back in prison since an arrest on one’s record means increased difficulty finding a job, obtaining housing, attending college, and getting loans.
The state of Texas, however, has implemented pretrial diversion programs to give first time offenders a chance to get back on the right track. Instead of jail time, offenders that qualify can participate in programs that keep their criminal record clean.
Texas Attorney for Pretrial Diversion
The attorneys of The Gracia Law Firm are experienced litigators who know what their clients are going through. A first time arrest can be absolutely harrowing for someone who has never been on the wrong side of the law. The Gracia Law Firm is here to help first time offenders get through this tough time in their lives and help them get back to normal.
If you have been arrested in the Rio Grande Valley area, reach out to us at (956) 504-2211. We will evaluate your case and discuss with you what your best options are, including whether you qualify for a pretrial diversion program. We aggressively defend clients facing criminal charges in Cameron County, Willacy County, and Hidalgo County.
Brownsville Pretrial Diversion Information Center
- What is Pretrial Diversion?
- Do I qualify for Pretrial Diversion?
- How does the program work?
- What happens to my criminal record?
What is Pretrial Diversion?
To reduce the number of people who go back to prison after an arrest, the state of Texas has implemented pretrial diversion programs that offer alternatives to incarceration. The programs are supervised rehabilitation services that are intended to reduce the likelihood that a person reoffends.
Generally, the pretrial services division will create a plan based on your situation. That plan may include paying fines, community service, counseling, drug testing, and classes, depending on your situation. Pretrial diversion is only available to those that qualify but those that are eligible have the opportunity to not only avoid jail time but by completing the program the charges may be dismissed completely and the case closed.
Do I Qualify for Pretrial Diversion
Pretrial diversion is meant for those first time offenders that are unlikely to reoffend. Each county has its own qualifying criteria. Generally, to qualify, the offender must:
- Have no prior arrests
- Be employed or a full time student
- Admit guilt
- Submit to drug testing if necessary
- Be able to pay related fees and expenses related to the program
There are also restrictions on the types of crimes that make a person ineligible for pretrial diversion. Violent and sex based crimes in particular are generally ineligible for pretrial diversion. The non-qualifying offenses include crimes of sexual assault, burglary, aggravated assault, murder, and robbery.
Most misdemeanors, however, qualify and can include such crimes as common drug and alcohol charges, domestic violence, and DWI. The director of pre-trial services, however, has discretion regarding who ultimately qualifies. An experienced attorney will be the best source to help you figure out whether you qualify for pretrial diversion or not.
It is crucial that you have an attorney help you apply. You will need to submit an application to pretrial services that must include supporting documents and an essay that explains the circumstances of your arrest. You must take responsibility for your arrest in your essay. Generally, you may also need to supply a second essay that explains why you want to avoid jail and why you are unlikely to end up on the wrong side of the law again. Pretrial services wants to keep out anyone that they think will reoffend or that cannot be rehabilitated.
How does the Program Work?
If you are accepted into the program, your case is essentially paused until you either complete the program or fail the program. Pretrial diversion programs are designed around the offender so there is no one-size-fits-all schedule. Generally the programs last from 1 to 2 years and may include:
- Community Service;
- Rehabilitation Classes;
- Regular Drug Testing;
- Regular Reporting with a Probation Officer;
- Curfews and Travel Restrictions; and
- Ignition Interlock Devices for DWI offenders.
You will also be required to pay a fee for enrolling in the program, the cost of any classes you must take, monthly fees for the program, and certain costs for the department working on your case.
At the end of the program, if you have completed all of the requirements, your case could be dismissed by the district attorney all together. If you fail the program or are removed from the program the consequence is that the criminal case against you will resume and you will now face the full consequences of prosecution.
What happens to my Criminal Record?
Successful completion of a pretrial diversion program means that the prosecutor may dismiss your case completely. This does not, however, mean that your record will be cleared. In fact, you will still have the arrest on your record. What it does mean is that your record is eligible for non-disclosure.
You will have to apply separately for non-disclosure. Non-disclosure essentially means any record of your arrest will be sealed from the public and available only to law enforcement.
Pretrial Diversion Resource Center
Cameron County Pretrial Services – Cameron County’s Pretrial Services Director is Kevin D. Saenz. Following the link will take you to the Cameron County website which includes contact details for pretrial services and important forms related to filing for pretrial diversion.
Expunctions in Texas | TYLA – The Texas Young Lawyers Association has produced a helpful pamphlet on the Texas State Bar website that provides useful information on expunction and non-disclosures of records. The document also includes a sample template for filing a petition for expunction or non-disclosure. Follow the link to learn more about clearing your record.
Brownsville Pretrial Diversion Attorney
If you have made a minor mistake and are afraid of the criminal consequences of an arrest, you may be relieved to know that you may be eligible for pretrial diversion. Not everyone can qualify for pretrial diversion programs but if eligible you may have a new lease on life. If you are a first time offender make sure you hire an experienced legal team like The Gracia Law Firm.
Our firm can evaluate your case and help you decide what the best options are for defending yourself. We represent people all over Cameron County including Brownsville and Harlingen. Call us today at (956) 504-2211 to set up a consultation and see what we can do for you.