Collin County Deferred Prosecution Program Update (2/10/11)

February 10, 2011

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 562-7549

I recently blogged on some of the anticipated changes to the Collin County Deferred Prosecution Program that were in the works with the new District Attorney’s administration which you can read here.

One of the changes that I’ve recently learned about is that the DA’s office is not necessarily putting an age limit on who is eligible for the program.  Previously, a person over 21 would not be eligible for the deferred prosecution program.

This confirms the new administration’s willingness to be flexible and to do the right thing in each and every case.

More updates to come.

*Jeremy F. Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice on any particular situation, you should contact an attorney directly.

Collin County Deferred Prosecution Program — Update (1/31/11)

January 31, 2011

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 562-7549

Many changes have and are taking effect under new Criminal District Attorney Greg Willis.

Amongst those changes are changes to Collin County’s Deferred Prosecution Program.  That program was originally instituted by former District Attorney John R. Roach, Sr. and allowed youthful “offenders” the opportunity to avoid having their cases be filed formally in exchange for a less-formal probation under the supervision of the Collin County Community Supervision department (probation).

There were many complaints about how Mr. Roach’s administration ran the program.  For example, there were formal guidelines set in place that were inflexible and could be somewhat arbitrary.  For example, people were refused entry into the program because they did not reply within the narrow time frame given to them regardless of the reason.

Also, the method in which people were contacted was suspect.  First, the person would receive direct notification of the program via an unsigned letter bearing the letter-head of the probation department.  The letter would invite the offender and his/her parents to come and confess to the crime — and that they would then be considered for admission into Deferred Prosecution Program (the letters did not come from the DA’s office).  Lawyers in Texas cannot directly contact persons they know to be represented by counsel in opposing matters.

The new Collin County DA’s policy towards the Deferred Prosecution Program takes a far more common-sense approach.  It appears as though they are evaluating the program on a case-by-case basis and they are willing to review cases submitted to them for review.  It’s guesswork at this point as to how exactly the old-guidelines will play into the new decision making, but the Defense lawyer community is hopeful that the program will be more fair and available to people deserving a second chance.

Obviously, the DA’s office has to draw the line somewhere with allowing people into the Deferred Prosecution Program — which means that not everyone will get what they want.  At least everyone will be heard.  And that’s a huge change.

Ask your lawyer about the Deferred Prosecution Program in Collin County if you think it’s an option for your case or your child’s case.

*Jeremy F. Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice for any specific situation, you should directly consult with an attorney.

Collin County’s Deferred Prosecution Program

May 31, 2010

A couple of years ago, the Collin County District Attorney’s office decided to institute a deferred prosecution program for young people (17 to 21 years old) accused of minor offenses.  The D.A.’s office sends out letters inviting people to contact the probation department for the program if they think you’re eligible.

If you can qualify and successfully complete the program — then it’s possible you can qualify for an expunction without having to risk going to a trial.  In theory, it’s a great concept and a win-win deal.

In practice it isn’t quite that simple.  There are some pitfalls to watch for.

Here’s Why You Should Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Before You Agree to Apply:

1.  You have to Confess to Be Eligible. The entire theory behind the Deferred Prosecution Program is getting “help” for the “youthful offender.”  My only guess is that this somehow helps with accepting responsibility as part of “treatment.”  By confessing to whatever crime you’re accused of committing, you’ve often sealed the DA’s office legal case against you should you not be accepted into the program or the program not work out.  This brings me to my next point.

2.  The Program is Hard to Complete. The program administrators are under extremely strict marching orders to report and toss anyone out of the program for the slightest infractions.  They define a violation as anything they interpret in their sole discretion as being an infraction.  This means that even you dispute whether you’ve violated a rule — you’re still gone without a chance to complain to anyone.  They can and do throw out participants on a frequent basis.  They’ve got your confession now to use against you in formal prosecution.  This seems inconsistent with “helping youthful offenders” but this is they way they’ve chosen to run their program.

3.  The Waivers and Terms are Extremely One-Sided. The prosecutors and probation officers don’t know anything about the case — except that you’re guilty of whatever the police said you did.  They view this program as purely charity towards you.  Therefore, they are justified in having every term extremely slanted in their favor (see above — that a violation is determined in their sole discretion — and that’s just one example).  You also waive more complicated things such as the statute of limitations which could push-off or even possibly nullify your ability to get an expunction (although they dispute this).

4.  The DA’s Office is Legally Your Opponent. Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3.09(c) states, a prosecutor in a criminal case shall “not initiate or encourage efforts to obtain from an unrepresented accused a waiver of important pre-trial, trial or post-trial rights.”

5.  A Criminal Defense Lawyer is Your Advocate and Voice. Collin County’s Deferred Prosecution Program makes me as nervous as a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  I’m not suggesting it can’t be a great way to clean a criminal record while minimizing risk — but I am suggesting you know what you’re getting into first.

A criminal defense lawyer can point out one or ten possible defenses that it’s not the DA’s office or the probation office’s job to point out.  Also, a criminal defense lawyer experienced with how the program is administered can advise you in advance as to whether entering into the program — and all it entails — is truly what is in the best interest of the accused.  The prosecution only thinks they know how to do this better.

Jeremy F. Rosenthal, Esq.

(972) 562-7549

*Jeremy F. Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For specific legal advice, you should directly consult an attorney.