What Are My Options as a First-Time Offender?

Our nation’s prisons and jails have an overcrowding problem, and the courts know it. That’s why courts in Fort Worth and throughout Texas are exploring alternative options to jail for first-time offenders. If you have committed a crime for the first time, you have an unprecedented amount of legal options before you—options that will require the deft hands and quick action of a Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer. Below, our firm has outlined a few of the options you may have.

Pretrial Intervention for Misdemeanors

Texas courts are experimenting with a program that allows first-time misdemeanor offenses to be given a not-guilty verdict in exchange for community service and other requirements. The program would be available to minor crimes offenders with “mostly clean” records. This would include crimes such as public intoxication, marijuana possession, and other minor non-violent crimes.

The program would require a $500 fine, 40 hours of community service, and 6 months of probation. The fine is relatively small, but by far the greatest advantage to this option is the ability to secure a not-guilty ruling. As a result, you would be eligible to eventually expunge your arrest from your criminal record, protecting your rights and opportunities as a citizen.

Intervening with the DA

If you hire a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney quickly, they may have a chance to work on your behalf before formal charges are filed. Skilled criminal lawyers are able to negotiate as well as litigate—this means we may be able to avoid criminal charges altogether if you act quickly enough! If you are a first-time offender, prosecutors are much more likely to agree to a deal that will not require you to plead guilty. In order for this option to be available, you will have to contact a defense attorney soon after arrest. You can benefit by maintaining a clean criminal record.

DIVERT Program

Thus far, these options have been for misdemeanor crimes. However, if you are a first-time felony offender, you still have an option. The DIVERT program was created in Dallas County to rehabilitate first-time felons with substance abuse issues. If you are found to have an addiction that requires treatment, you may be considered eligible for DIVERT by the courts. Instead of a ruling, you will be subjected to a 12 to 18 month program and probation designed to ensure your sobriety.

After 2 years, if you complete your program and commit no other crimes, your arrest will be expunged from your record. However, to be in this program, your attorney will need to work with the courts to prove that you would benefit from it. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side in Fort Worth, could mean the difference between prison and a clean record.

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