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Everything You Need to Know About Pretrial Diversion in Harris County, Texas

What is Pretrial Diversion (Pretrial Intervention)?

Pretrial Diversion, also called Pretrial Intervention (PTI) is an alternative to prosecution that allows for someone to have their case dismissed after completing a supervision period. Unlike probation or deferred adjudication, pretrial diversion does not require you to plead guilty to a judge. If you complete the program, your case is dismissed and you are eligible to have the case expunged from your background. In Harris County, pretrial diversion is typically only offered to first time offenders but may be available in other special situations even if you have a criminal record.


In this post, I will cover the following topics on pretrial diversion in Harris County:


The Difference Between Pretrial Diversion and Probation

A probation requires the accused to plead guilty to the offense, whereas a pretrial diversion does not require any type of guilty plea. After successful completion of a pretrial diversion, the case is dismissed and is eligible to be expunged. Expungement is not available if you completed a probation. The only way to have a probation removed from your record is if it was a deferred adjudication probation, and even then, certain people can still see the arrest even after it has been sealed.


Pretrial diversion offers you the chance to have the entire arrest expunged, and for this reason, is much more desirable than taking a probation. For the same reasons, it is much harder to convince the DA's office to offer a pretrial diversion.


Who is Most Likely to be Offered a Pretrial Diversion?

Technically anyone is eligible to receive a pretrial diversion, whether you have a criminal history or not. However, the DA's office is more likely to offer a pretrial diversion in the following situations:

  • a first-time offender with no criminal history

  • proof that a criminal conviction will jeopardize someone's career or living situation

  • proof that a criminal conviction will jeopardize someone's citizenship status

  • non-violent misdemeanors

  • an accused's ability to pay back any restitution (i.e. medical bills or property damage)

  • in an assault case, the lack of any serious injuries

  • whether the victim is on board with a pretrial diversion, particularly in an assault family member or family violence case

  • whether the accused is willing to take responsibility for the offense

An experienced criminal defense attorney will make sure to highlight any of these factors when negotiating with the DA's office to obtain a pretrial diversion.


How Long does a Pretrial Diversion Last?

The length of a pretrial diversion program depends on the specific terms of your pretrial diversion contract. The program length and any other terms and conditions are negotiated by your defense attorney. A pretrial diversion could last anywhere between a month to 2 years, or more depending on the terms of the pretrial diversion contract your attorney was able to negotiate.


Pretrial diversions in Harris County often have no specific length of time and will terminate upon successful completion of an anger management class or community service. Once the classes and/or community service is completed, the pretrial diversion is complete and the case is dismissed. This type of pretrial diversion is obviously preferred over one that lasts a certain period of time, as it may only take a week or two to complete an anger management class.


How do you Apply for Pretrial Diversion in Harris County, Texas?

In Harris County, a formal application for pretrial diversion may or may not be required to be accepted into the program. For example, a first time DWI in which your blood alcohol content was less than .15 and in which no accident occurred is automatically eligible for a pretrial diversion. No application necessary. Certain first time petty theft and shoplifting offenses may also automatically qualify for pretrial diversion in Harris County.


If your case does not automatically qualify for pretrial diversion, you and your attorney will be required to submit a mitigation packet for the prosecutor to review when making their decision. The most effective pretrial diversion mitigation packets should include the following materials:

  • a letter of apology from the accused admitting guilt

  • proof of employment

  • at least 2 letters of recommendation from non-family members

  • proof of any awards or accolades

  • proof of any negative consequences a criminal record may have to your career or living situation


At Mercer & Keirnan Criminal Defense Attorneys, we are intimately familiar with the process of applying for pretrial diversion in Harris County, Texas. Call us anytime at 713-236-9700 for a free consultation to discuss your case.


Advantages of Pretrial Diversion in Texas

One of the most obvious advantages of a pretrial diversion is that upon successful completion, your case is completely dismissed. You are then eligible to have the entire arrest expunged from your background. Pretrial diversion is essentially a guaranteed dismissal as long as you complete whatever conditions you agreed to complete.


Additionally, pretrial diversion allows you to avoid the risk of having a jury trial. If the evidence in your case is overwhelming, it probably is not in your best interest to place your fate in the hands of a jury. As experienced as your defense attorney may be, no lawyer can control what a jury chooses to believe. The end result of a pretrial diversion is essentially the same result of being found not guilty at trial. In both situations, your case is dismissed and your are eligible to have the case expunged.


Disadvantages of Pretrial Diversion in Texas

One of the disadvantages of pretrial diversion in Texas is the requirement that the accused take responsibility for the crime...in writing. It is highly unlikely that a prosecutor will offer a pretrial diversion if you are not willing to take responsibility and apologize for whatever you are accused of. If you are indeed not guilty of the charges and are the victim of false accusations, this creates an issue. Obviously you should never take responsibility for a criminal charge if you have been falsely accused. The proper route to take in this situation is to push for a straight dismissal or to set your case for trial.


The terms of a pretrial diversion are not always easy. Some terms may include lengthy anger management or drug treatment. Payment of large restitution amounts. Avoiding drugs and alcohol for a significant period of time. If you fail to complete the terms of the pretrial diversion, the prosecutor can and will revoke the offer and send you back to court to fight the case. At this point, they may use your apology letter against you at trial. Make sure your defense attorney is clear and up front with you about any terms of your pretrial diversion agreement before you agree to accept the deal.

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