PRETRIAL DIVERSION ATTORNEYS IN DALLAS, TEXAS
– Messina Madson, Dallas Morning News op-ed
What Are Diversion Programs?
If you’ve been arrested for a non-violent criminal offense, you can be “diverted” out of the criminal courts and into a specified reform program. When you successfully complete a diversion program, the underlying case is dismissed, and your case becomes eligible for immediate expungement.
In addition to helping clear your criminal record, a diversion program can help you learn new life skills; establish healthy, productive habits; and overcome addictions—all of which help you avoid criminal behaviors. Diversion programs offer a fresh start, not only by creating the opportunity for expungement, but also by equipping you with new tools to succeed.
It is important to note that diversion is a “predisposition” program. This means that you enter the program while the case is still open (before a plea bargain or trial). Upon completion of a pretrial diversion program, your case is dismissed, and you can file for expungement.
If you fail to complete the program, you can be placed back into the usual process in the courts.
What Does an Arrested Person Need to Know About Pretrial Diversion?
Act quickly. Diversion programs often have a narrow window to apply, sometimes even prior to indictment.
Know the local options. Find out what’s available in your county of arrest. While drug diversion is most common, pretrial diversion is expanding into other areas of focus as well, such as:
people diagnosed with mental illness
people charged with Driving While Intoxicated
You won’t get in if you don’t apply. In nearly all instances, you must apply to get into a diversion program. Each county will have its own options for pretrial diversion and eligibility requirements, but programs usually don’t come looking for the participants.
Paperwork must be filed to get the underlying case expunged. Upon completing the diversion program, a case will NOT be taken off a person’s record unless that person (or her attorney) files the correct paperwork for expungement.
Explore financial aid. Many programs have a financial component, but reduced rates or scholarships often are available based on documented need.
How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help You with Pretrial Diversion?
A criminal defense lawyer who practices in the area of your arrest can help you take these critical steps toward completing a diversion program:
Identifying the right program
Assisting in timely application
Filing for expungement
Be sure to find out which services are included in any estimate quoted a criminal defense attorney.
What Are the Benefits of Pretrial Diversion?
When arrested individuals complete diversion programs, they gain the freedom to pursue education and employment opportunities without the stigma of a criminal record. Pretrial diversion aims to address the underlying issues that lead to the criminal behavior, with the goal of taking arrested individuals out of the criminal justice system altogether.
Imprisoning non-violent and low-level offenders is expensive and counter-productive. These people need to stop making criminal decisions. They need to change their habits and lives. Often they need to overcome an addiction.
On local, state, and national levels, the public needs to make it clear to politicians, legislators, and government officials that we expect those programs to grow. Judge Birmingham of the 292nd judicial district court in Dallas County sets aside time every week to invest in young people attending diversion programs. They discuss education, work, and responsibility. There is a fair amount of encouragement and reprimand. There is the expectation that every person in the program can and will do better.
When non-violent offenders are pushed to make better choices, provided the tools to succeed, and given the chance to return to productive lives with a clear criminal history, everyone in society wins.