Pretrial Diversions and Interventions in Texas: When They Occur and How They Work

Pretrial Diversions in Texas

In Texas, being charged with certain offenses may not be the end of the line. Some people who are charged with lesser offenses may be given a chance to clear their record with a pretrial diversion. They are not available in every case but the defendants who qualify for them can make very good use of these programs.

Pretrial diversion programs have become popular as a way to reduce the strain on corrections departments around the state of Texas. They provide low-level offenders with an opportunity to avoid the long lasting stigma of a criminal conviction.

What Are Pretrial Diversions?

Pretrial diversion programs are known by many different names. In Texas, they are often referred to as “deferred adjudication” but this is not always the case. This is how they work:

  • A defendant with no criminal history or no serious convictions commits a low-level, non-violent offense, often involving minor drug possession
  • The judge defers the adjudication on the case for a certain time, which means that a sentence is temporarily suspended
  • The defendant is ordered to meet certain requirements during a probationary period
  • At the end of this period, if all conditions are met, the initial charges are dropped and the defendant is free to go with a clear criminal record

How Pretrial Diversions Work

Essentially, deferred adjudication probation is very similar to standard probation. The major difference is that deferred adjudication probation is served without a conviction and standard probation is served as punishment FOR a conviction.

However, the two types of probation are similar in most other ways. They both typically require defendants to make regular meetings with a supervision officer, where they must pay fees and give a report. Probationers may also be required to hold down steady employment, submit to random drug tests and stay out of trouble.

Violating these conditions may subject the defendant to a revocation of probation. On standard probation, this means that the defendant must serve out their original sentence in jail. On deferred adjudication probation, it means that the judge is allowed to issue a conviction, choosing the punishment range from the original charge.

Why They Exist

It’s no secret that, in Texas, jails and prisons are getting more crowded every day. In areas throughout the state, drug use has increased along with poverty. The result is that more people are committing illegal acts. The majority of these offenses are minor crimes committed by first-time offenders.

As a result, a large number of young people are starting their lives out with permanent charges on their criminal record. This can prevent them from getting good jobs that could keep them away from additional criminal acts.

Also, the judicial system recognizes that first-time offenders often simply make a mistake in a moment of poor judgement. Rather than using a permanent criminal conviction as punishment, temporary community service is used to punish an offense that was not too serious.

Finally, incarcerating people in jail or prison is very expensive. Instead of housing first-time offenders in state-funded institutions, the judicial system can hand out punishment while avoiding the high cost of incarceration.

When They Happen

In most cases, pretrial diversion or deferred adjudication is given under the discretion of a judge. People who qualify for these programs are typically young, low-level offenders with no prior convictions or history of criminal behavior. Many counties use “drug courts” to deal with the high volume of petty drug offenders.

Drug cases are often paired up with deferred adjudication. For example, if a young person is caught with a very small amount of marijuana, they may be given deferred adjudication instead of a jail sentence.

Requesting Deferred Adjudication

Although it may not be possible to get deferred adjudication in every case, an experienced attorney can offer advice as to whether a certain case has a good chance of receiving it.

In some cases, an attorney may be able to submit a request to the court that deferred adjudication be offered to his or her client. For example, an attorney might be able to present his or her client’s young age, lack of previous convictions and relatively minor offense as good reasons to use deferred adjudication as a corrective measure.

Are you a first time offender? Get a lawyer that can help you get the best results possible. The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp can protect your rights. Contact their office today at 713-868-6100.