By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
The Collin County Pre-Trial Diversion program (formerly known as deferred prosecution program) is beginning to take shape. This is the program which allows many people who have never had a run-in with the law a chance to fully clear their record without the risks associated with trial.
Prior to 2011, to be eligible for “deferred prosecution,” someone needed to be between the ages of 17 and 21, be accused of a non-violent offense, never have been in trouble before, and a resident of Collin County to qualify for the program. The former administration (under District Attorney John R. Roach) would not accept applications but would review incoming cases for those they deemed as qualifying. Those people would get an unsigned letter on the DA’s letter head directing them to call a particular probation officer. If you didn’t answer on time or if for some reason you never got a letter — you were out of luck. Finally, if you did successfully complete the program (and that was a bigger “if” than it should have been), you would have to wait 2 years to apply for an expunction, which the DA’s office could technically oppose if they wanted.
Here’s how it works with the new Greg Willis administration — after the arrest, the filing agency (usually the police department that made the arrest) files their case with the DA’s office. The DA’s office in turn files misdemeanor cases with the trial court or if the case is a felony with the grand jury.
Once the case has been assigned to a trial court, the defendant’s attorney can request the case be considered for the pre-trial diversion from the prosecutor. If the trial court prosecutor approves, they send it through several channels within the DA’s Office. If those get approved as well, the accused is invited to meet with the probation officer to enter the program.
Prosecutors are given general guidelines for the Pre-Trial Diversion. While the program is still not open to DWI or domestic violence cases, felony offenses are now available for the program. Prosecutors have been instructed to scrutinize cases where there may be impaired driving that falls short of driving while intoxicated — which may include drug arrests in cars.
The trial-courts have agreed, in principal, to cooperate with the Pre-Trial Diversion program. There are still likely details with the Courts that must be worked out with how these cases are accounted for or monitored.
Finally, the best benefit of all to the Pre-Trial Diversion program is that for the first time, the DA’s office promises the accused in writing that if they successfully complete the program, they agree to dismiss the case and never refile it. This bar to prosecution makes expunging the arrest more clear and immediate.
Again, the diversion program is still a work in progress. If there are more updates with the program, you can read about it here.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any particular situation, you should contact an attorney directly.