What are pretrial diversion programs and do they apply to your case?
Up to 30 percent of jailed offenders commit a crime after their release and end up back in the prison system within 3 years. Often, this problem occurs because individuals released from jail experience difficulty obtaining employment, acquiring a loan or advancing their education. Thus, they cannot sufficiently support themselves financially.
Frustrated and disillusioned, some offenders return to criminal activities. Others may suffer from substance addiction or mental health issues that contribute to poor choices that land them in jail.
The long-term repercussions of prison time can devastate individuals and entire families. Fortunately, Texas offers diversion programs to help rehabilitate first-time offenders, which benefits offenders, crime victims, the community and the justice system as a whole.
Texas’s pretrial diversion, explained
Diversion programs offered in the state of Texas are available for juveniles and adults. Texas’s pretrial diversion programs are available for misdemeanor, unindicted and indicted crimes. The programs provide an alternative to incarceration, criminal charges and subsequent criminal records. They’ve also been shown to reduce the likelihood that an individual offends repeatedly.
These programs are officiated by members of local law enforcement, a local district attorney, the court system and other organizations.
Offenders committing certain crimes can avoid prosecution if they meet the requirements set forth by the court for their particular situation. The programs are designed so that stipulations can be individualized based on the offender, the crime and other factors involved in the event.
Entering a diversion program is completely voluntary. Potential program participants are typically advised to have legal counsel to increase their chance of being accepted for diversion. The individuals must admit guilt before the court considers them eligible for acceptance.
If an offender violates the terms of their agreement at any time during the program, the court has the right to pursue criminal charges. But, if the offender successfully completes the program and fulfills the requirements set forth by the justice system, they can avoid incarceration and resume their life.
The length of a Texas diversion program varies from 6 months to 1 year. Requirements for offenders entering a Texas pretrial diversion program may include:
- Complete a designated number of hours of community service
- Continue education, employment or family responsibilities
- Gain employment or pursue educational goals
- Submit to a mental health evaluation
- Receive mental health treatment
- Submit to routine drug tests
- Attend alcohol or substance-abuse education classes
- Attend court-ordered counseling sessions
- Avoid alcohol or substance use
- Attend routine visits with a probation officer
- Avoid illegal activity
- Avoid associating with known offenders
- Obtain permission before changing residence or leaving the state
- Pay any required fees or fines
Who’s eligible for the diversion program in Texas?
The offenses that may be excused upon completion of a diversion program in Texas include:
- Criminal mischief
- Evidence tampering
- Forged prescriptions
- Possession of illegal substances
- Acquiring controlled or illegal substances
Individuals desiring to enter Texas pretrial diversion must complete an application. Stipulations for acceptance into a program include:
- Must be a first-time offender
- Offender can’t have a history of pretrial diversion acceptance
- The crime can’t be related to domestic violence
- Other than prostitution, the crime can’t involve sexual deviancy
- The offender can’t be a gang member
- The crime can’t involve the violation of public trust on behalf of a public official
- The offense can’t involve matters of foreign affairs or national security violations
Once the offender meets the initial criteria, they must complete a program entrance request application accompanied by any documents demonstrating favorable character. The documents may include:
- List of community or scholastic achievements
- School transcripts
- Military discharge documents
- Military commendations
The individual must also complete and submit an essay describing the committed offense, their arrest and acknowledgment of wrongdoing. This narrative must also explain why the individual wishes to avoid charges and incarceration, which may include their desire to complete educational goals or family responsibilities. Part of the acceptance process includes an interview with a probation officer for assessment and evaluation of the individual and the case.
Benefits of Texas’s diversion programs
Texas pretrial diversion programs strive to rehabilitate first-time offenders and provide treatment for possible underlying circumstances that may have influenced criminal activity participation. Along with avoiding criminal conviction and prosecution, offenders are given the opportunity to make amends for their crime and become more aware of the impact their actions have on others. Thus, the programs not only benefit the perpetrator but also the community in which they live.
Consult with a knowledgeable Texas defense attorney
Houston criminal defense attorney Matt Sharp has the knowledge and experience to help offenders determine if a Texas pretrial diversion program is appropriate for their situation. In order to make an informed decision, individuals must gain knowledge of the programs and all that they entail. After evaluating the case, Matt can help clients navigate the process of gaining acceptance into a program suitable for their offense.