Talented Criminal Defense Attorneys Offering Assistance with First Offender Programs in Texas

Being charged with a crime has the potential to be a life-changing experience, and sometimes, the consequences are extremely severe. But for many non-violent offenses, there are alternatives to going to jail or/and having a permanent mark on your criminal record: attending a first offender program is one of them.

If you have been charged with a crime and are a first-time offender in Denton or surrounding areas, our experienced attorney can help you to understand your rights, including the option of attending a first offender program in lieu of other criminal consequences. Here’s what you need to know:

What Is a First-Time Offender Program?

A first-time offender program, or first offender program, also called pre-trial diversion, is a program that is designed to help defendants avoid the full effects of a criminal conviction, while also rehabilitating to the point that they do not commit a subsequent crime in the future. Typically, first offender programs require participants to attend certain classes, undergo treatment or counseling, and remain on probation for a period of time. In exchange, the probation may not be officially entered in the record, and the defendant may avoid jail time and other serious consequences. There is a federal first-time offender program, as well as state-based first offender programs, with each state setting its own laws. The laws vary significantly from state to state.

Texas’ First Offender Programs

In Texas, there are a variety of first offender programs (sometimes called diversion programs) aimed to help those who have committed a crime rehabilitate, and aimed to improve the overall efficiency of the courts. For example, Tarrant County and Denton County, TX maintain First Offender Drug Program, which is available for first-time drug offenders that are considered “self-correctors,” and that do not have any other pending cases other than those for Class C misdemeanors. Denton County also maintains a Pre-Trial Diversion Program (PTD), which allows for first-time offenses to be discharged when the program is completed by the offender. The Denton Mental Health Treatment Court is another type of first offender program in the county, which offers offenders with a mental illness the chance to wipe their record clean.  Often these first time offender programs allow the offender to get an expunction.

While it is not a program in itself, the Texas Senate recently passed what has been dubbed a “second chances” bill for nonviolent offenders in the state. The bill is the Senate’s version of HB 3016, it allows those who have been convicted of certain, non-violent, low-level offenses to refrain from disclosing that offense when applying for jobs. It would allow first time DWI offenders to apply for a “non-disclosure” which would place restrictions on who can see their criminal record.

How Do You Request an Expungement?

An expunction is not automatic. An eligible individual must file a Petition for Expunction with a Texas district court. The petition must contain basic identifying information as well as the grounds for which the person is entitled to expungement. The district attorney and other law enforcement agencies may contest the petition. A judge will then hold a hearing and make a final decision.

Learn More About First Offender Programs in Texas

If you are a first-time offender facing a criminal conviction in Texas, a first-time offender or pre-trial diversion program may be a viable option for you, and could help you to avoid common consequences of conviction. To learn more about these programs, how to qualify, and how an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer can help, contact our law offices today. A consultation with Brent D. Bowen, Attorney at Law, is always offered free of charge.

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