Pre-Trial Diversion Versus Probation

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Transcript:

Pre-trial diversion is a fairly common way to resolve cases, especially minor misdemeanors. In this video, I want to explain what it is and how it operates so that you can have a basic understanding of what's involved. The best explanation and the best way to explain it is by comparing it with probation. In probation, whether it be a regular probation or whether it be a deferred adjudication-type probation, you go to court, you enter a plea.

In a deferred case, the judge finds that there is enough evidence to find you guilty and defers a finding of guilt. In a regular probation case, he would just find you guilty and then place you on probation for a certain term. For example, you might be placed on probation for 15 months. The terms of that probation are that one, you don't get in any trouble, which is pretty basic. But generally, you have to report to a probation officer at least once a month. You have probation fees to pay, which are usually $60 a month. Most probations have some type of class that you have to attend. There may be community service and there may be other specific terms that apply to the particular type of case you have. For example, assault cases, especially family violence cases, may have some type of anger management class, or there may be other types of cases that involve different types of classes or programs.

The term of probation, once it expires, then in a deferred, the court would enter an order dismissing the case and discharging you from probation. In regular probation, at the end of the term, there would just be an order discharging you from probation. Pre-trial intervention or pre-trial diversion works in a similar way, except there are some significant differences and some significant distinctions. The big distinction, at least in McLennan County, is that pre-trial diversion is not administered by the court and it's not administered by the probation department. Instead, it's a program that runs out of the district attorney's office. That means that unlike a normal probation case where you would report to a probation officer, in a pre-trial diversion case, you don't report to anybody. Instead, whatever requirements are imposed, you take care of those and then you show proof that you've done those and submit those to the pre-trial diversion office.

The terms of pre-trial diversion are generally similar to the terms that would be imposed in a probation case. There are classes, there's usually community service, there's always some type of fee involved. Although in pre-trial diversion, you're not actually paying a monthly fee, so you don't have that cost.

The other big distinction in a pre-trial diversion case, and this is specifically limited to McLennan County because every county is set up a little bit differently, but in McLennan County, once you enter into the agreement, which is an actual contract that you would sign that contains all the terms and conditions, once you enter into that agreement, then at least in misdemeanor cases, the case is dismissed, which means that you no longer have a case pending in court. If there's no case pending in court, then it would just be refused, so you wouldn't end up with the case in court. Because of the advantage to pre-trial diversion, which is that you're ending up with a dismissal of your case, which also means that you can later apply to have that case and your record expunged, because you're getting those advantages, many times, the terms of pre-trial diversion may be a little bit more strict or more stringent than you might see in a probation case. This is especially applicable to cases involving alcohol, such as DWI. In regular probation, you would be prohibited from drinking, you would have random UAs, random drug tests to make sure you weren't drinking and you weren't driving. If your breath test was fairly high or if you're a repeat offender, you might have an order that required you to impose an interlock. But normally that's gonna be it.

In a pre-trial diversion case and almost every case involving DWI, you're gonna have some type of monitoring that's gonna be far more stringent and is gonna require something that you have to comply with generally on a daily basis. The most common one is called a SCRAM device, which is a remote breath device that's something that you have to take with you or have available and blow into it a few times a day to verify that you haven't had anything to drink and you aren't drinking. There also may be a requirement that you submit to hair follicle testing to make sure that you haven't been drinking over the last 90 days or so. Those are usually conditions that are imposed at the beginning for three months, six months. It depends on the facts of the case. And then normally there's a requirement for an interlock. Your monitoring is gonna be far more strict, but the benefit is that you get your case dismissed and your case is dismissed upfront. Hopefully that provides you with a basic or general understanding of pre-trial diversion and how it works. As always, if you have any questions about the specifics or how it operates or the facts of your case, please let us know.