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Understanding Pretrial Diversion

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Understanding Pretrial Diversion

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Wouldn’t it be great if you had a way to avoid conviction and have the charges against you dismissed? As it turns out, you have access to such an opportunity — it’s called pretrial diversion. 

You must understand that there are limitations to this opportunity. Still, if you qualify, you can avoid prison, and your background checks for work and other things remain clear.

What is a pretrial diversion, and who qualifies? Let’s find out.

Defining Pretrial Diversion

Certain offenders can avoid prosecution and have the charges dismissed by agreeing to follow a pretrial diversion program and meeting specific conditions.

Pretrial diversion is a form of supervision available only to first-time offenders. First-time offenders may be offered pretrial diversion instead of prosecution and atone for their criminal charge without the impact of deferred adjudication or conviction.

Why would you want to take advantage of pretrial diversion?

  • You avoid charges entirely. Charges are dropped once you complete the terms of pretrial diversion.
  • You avoid prison time and can continue working and participating in your regular activities.
  • Pretrial diversion does not show up on a background check in Texas.
  • It makes your record eligible for expungement.

There are a couple of downsides:

  • You must enter a guilty plea as part of the program.
  • If you violate the terms of your pretrial diversion arrangement, the prosecutor can resume the case against you.
  • Completing a pretrial diversion program doesn’t result in a clear record. You must still go through the expungement process.

If you are a first offender, this is a pretty good deal. You should be able to comply without trouble.

Are you eligible for having your criminal case dismissed?
Attorney Greg Tsioros can help you find out

Who Qualifies for Pretrial Diversion?

Your criminal case can be dismissed if you meet all the following conditions:

  • You have no history of previous pretrial diversions.
  • You have no prior arrests.
  • The crime must be a misdemeanor or a select felony.
  • The crime cannot be related to family violence, sex crimes outside of prostitution, national security, or foreign affairs.
  • You cannot be a documented member of a gang.

Some pretrial diversion programs require you to have a valid driver’s license at the time of arrest for any vehicle operation-related charges such as DWI. The police had better not find any open containers in your car, either. 

You might need recommendation letters from colleagues or your employer. Also, you might need to agree to a substance abuse evaluation.

Not all felony arrests are eligible for pretrial diversion, and misdemeanors only qualify if they are not related to the crimes listed above.

Conditions for Pretrial Diversion or Intervention in Texas

If you hope to qualify for pretrial diversion in Texas, you must apply, and the state must accept it. You must agree with the terms and conditions of pretrial diversion programming. If you complete all program requirements, the charges will be dismissed. 

Examples of pretrial diversion programs include:

  • Completing community service hours assigned
  • Attending counseling or education sessions based on your offense, such as a drug or alcohol treatment program
  • Regular drug testing
  • Reporting to your probation officer as required
  • Other requirements depending on your situation

Applying for pretrial diversion includes providing your resume, school transcript, list of achievements, or other favorable information. You are required to write an essay describing how you came to be arrested and show acceptance that what you did was wrong. In other words, you must admit guilt.

You can also write a second essay explaining why you want to avoid jail, including the need to fulfill family responsibilities, educational objectives, or career goals.

Finally, you must interview with a probation officer who will ask you questions about your supporting documents and other relevant topics.

If you attempt to deflect blame or accuse someone else, your essay and your bid for pretrial diversion will likely be rejected. 

Schedule a free consultation with attorney Greg Tsioros »

Pretrial Diversion vs. Deferred Adjudication

Pretrial diversion and deferred adjudication are similar but not identical. With both, you admit guilt, adhere to a probationary period, and you must meet specific qualifications.

However, you plead guilty to a judge in court with deferred adjudication. You can’t avoid court as you can with pretrial diversion. Also, deferred adjudication shows up on your background checks from then on unless you apply for a nondisclosure. Also, you receive deferred adjudication more frequently if you are charged with a felony.

Deferred adjudication is the best option if you cannot avoid court or are charged with multiple felonies. Also, if you fail to meet the requirements for the probationary period, you will receive harsher penalties than if you took a plea bargain instead.

Should You Choose Either or None?

You have several considerations to make in your decision about accepting pretrial diversion, deferred adjudication, or neither.

Since you must plead guilty, you must consider that you might be pleading guilty for a crime you did not commit. 

If you choose deferred adjudication, remember that you will have a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. Also, if you fail to follow all the requirements for either program, you admitted guilt to avoid court or jail time. Now you’re stuck with that admission if you go to trial, and it won’t be pretty.

Some other things to think about — you might be required to pay a monthly supervision fee. But you won’t be responsible for court costs assessed on a program. You may also be required to pay restitution to the victim as well as complete community service hours. 

Ask an Attorney for Help

If you are arrested, call for an experienced criminal attorney to help you sort out your options. A criminal lawyer can help you determine whether you qualify for pretrial diversion and whether you can or should choose it over deferred adjudication. 

Remember, you only qualify if this is your first offense. Also, if you are arrested for a felony, you are unlikely to be eligible except for specific felony crimes. 

If you qualify for pretrial diversion, it doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay restitution or serve community service. However, if you can complete the program without problems, you can expunge your criminal record. Contact the Office of Greg Tsioros for help.

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