As a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney I get the opportunity to defend many young individuals during stressful times in their life. I see many young adults (17-21) who have gone their entire lives without being in trouble. Usually they are charged with some misdemeanor such as theft that stemmed from a brief lack of judgment. They typically enter my office scared that they ruined their future and are looking for guidance. Luckily in Harris County there is a pre-trial intervention program that is set up to give a second chance to young people who deserve it.
The process starts by submitting a pre-trial intervention application through the chief prosecutor in the court the case is in. A basic application includes a letter of apology to the victim/complainant, a letter from the defendant explaining why they need this extraordinary opportunity, letters of recommendation, indication of future goals/plans, and indication of a stable lifestyle/mitigating facts. The court evaluates the application and decided whether or not to offer admission into the program.
If accepted, the pre-trail intervention (or pre-trial diversion) program is typically one year long (can be more for more serious offenses). During this year the case in question is reset and pending. Using a recent theft case I handled as an example, what is usually included in the program is an anti-theft class, a certain amount of hours of community service (typically 80), regular reporting to the probation department (even though you are technically not on probation), random drug tests, and a drug/alcohol evaluation. The fees associated with the program are typically not more than $60 per month as per the agreement.
The bulk of the program can be completed in the first couple of months. After that, the goal for the rest of the year is to not get in trouble. When the defendant returns to court in one year, the assistant district attorney runs a criminal background check on the defendant, and if everything comes back clear the case is dismissed.
This is a true dismissal that can expunged off a record (which destroys the record for everyone). Any good Houston Criminal Defense Attorney would tell you that a pre-trial intervention dismissal is much better than a deferred adjudication (which is a type of probation) dismissal. The big difference is the fact that pre-trial intervention dismissal is eventually expunction eligible while the deferred dismissal is only eligible for a motion for non-disclosure (which will keep the record visible to law enforcement and government agencies). If you have a case you think might be eligible make sure to contact a Criminal Lawyer in Houston who can help you.