Earlier this year Harris County unveiled a new First Chance Intervention program. It is intended for first time offenders charged with Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana for up to 2 ounces. The purpose of this program is to give first time offenders a free chance at a dismissal for possession of a small amount of marijuana. This will also hopefully help with the cluttered court rooms in Harris County.
Who is the First Chance Intervention Program for?
This is a great program for individuals to apply for once they have had a chance to hire a lawyer and investigate the case. As a defense attorney, the problem that I see is the fact that defendants are not given the opportunity in court to fully investigate the charges in these cases. Individuals are screened quickly and most are eager to jump at the opportunity for a dismissal, whether they are legally guilty or not.
This is understandable to a point because the program is easy to complete once accepted. The way it works is the person is screened for the program, and if accepted they enter into a contract with the State of Texas, much in the way they enter into a contract on a normal pre-trial intervention. This program however is much easier to complete. Based on a screening, individuals will have to do one of two things:
- 8 hours of community service OR
- A drug class
One top of one of those 2 options, the person will also have to pay a $130 fee for participating in the program. They also have to comply with normal conditions such as staying drug and alcohol free, going to court when told, not breaking the law, etc.
Timeline for First Chance Intervention Program
These cases are being placed on the court schedule 100 days after the contract is signed. Once the fee is paid and the class/community service is done, the case is dismissed off docket. So technically, if you are really serious about the first chance intervention program, you can get it done in less than a week.
Sadly, I have had clients who have signed up for the first chance intervention program and did NOTHING. This is absolutely ridiculous considering how easy this program is. It offers a free dismissal and a chance at a limited expunction in the future. This is a broad overview of the program, if you have specific questions ask an attorney. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position where this is an option for you, then it is best to take it seriously. Even small misdemeanor drug convictions can have a long and lasting negative affect on your life!