Some Options for Out of Towners Who Run into the Law While on Vacation
It’s probably not the best idea in the world to get in trouble when you are on vacation, or visiting another city. It makes it very hard on you both logistically and financially. I have run into this problem quite a bit as of late. On average I might get 1 or 2 cases a year from out of towner’s who either partied too hard, or made a dumb mistake while they were here. The problem ends of being that we lose a lot of potential options when you cannot commit yourself to living in Harris County.
Harris County Pre-Trial Diversion Program
Sometimes, especially for first offenders, there are programs available that can lead to dismissals. One of the programs, the pre-trial diversion program, requires individuals to complete all of their conditions in Harris County. A Pre-Trial diversion is a type of program that allows you to complete a probation-like program while your case is still open and pending, and allows you to earn a dismissal. Because the pre-trial diversion is a Harris County specific program, it cannot be transferred to another county (unlike some probations can be).
I had a client who lives 4 hours away, and while that isn’t too far, it’s just far enough to where it would make it tough to travel to Houston 2 or 3 times a month. Before, out of towner’s were not considered at all for the program, but I was told in this case that he is eligible for the program, but would have to commit to coming down for monthly meetings, random drug tests, community service, classes, etc in Harris County.
The Issues Around Living Far From Harris County
While this option is a no brainer for residents of Harris County and surrounding communities, it is a much tougher decision when you live out of town. To make it worse, you cannot transfer a probation that is 6 months (what he was being offered). So if he wanted to do a deferred adjudication to try to avoid a conviction, we actually would have had to ask to do MORE probation just to allow him to do his probation in his home town. My client has expressed interesting in just paying a fine because it is the easiest thing to do. That is the worst idea possible as it is a lifetime conviction, and something that will potentially keep an individual from getting jobs/apartments for the rest of their life.
It’s unfortunate that people feel stuck in these situations. It is never a good idea to get in trouble, but it’s a horrible idea to get into trouble far from home.
A pre-trial diversion is a special program that allows someone to get a reset that is 1 year long. During that time the defendant completes a program that results in the charges being dismissed. The program typically entails random drug tests, classes, community service, reporting once a month, paying monthly fees and staying drug and alcohol free.
Today in Harris County I was attempting to apply for a pre-trial diversion for my client who was charged with a Class B Misdemeanor. In the past, the program has been different court to court and judge to judge. However today, one of the chief prosecutors gave me an “application” that has the requirements for the application packet that we submit on behalf of our clients who are seeking admission into the program. He informed me that all courts are now going to be using these requirements, and that it will be standardized among all misdemeanor courts.
The new requirements are that the packet must be submitted within 60 days of the first appearance of the Defense Counsel. And also that the packet must be submitted 7 days prior to the next setting. Other requirements are as follows:
- Defendant has never been previously arrested or a party to a criminal proceeding
- Defendant will reside in Harris County, TX for the entire one-year of the Pre-Trial Diversion
- Defendant is a US Citizen or lawful resident
- Defendant submits a Pre-Trial Diversion application containing:
- Letter stating why the defendant deserves a pre-trial diversion as opposed to deferred adjudication
- Written confession and apology
- Drug test results (if a drug case)
- School transcripts (if a student)
- Employment verification (pay stubs)
- At least two letters of recommendation from NON-FAMILY MEMBERS (stating awareness of the criminal charge and continued support)
- Evidence of treatment or community service as appropriate
Any exceptions to this are at the discretion of the chief prosecutor in the court that is handling the case.
This is basically the same that has been required in most courts, however, there have been a few courts that require different things. This could potentially be a good thing if all the courts, prosecutors and judges are on the same page.
There is no indication of what types of cases or age groups are eligible. This is more than likely still going to be decided on a court by court basis. If you have any specific questions regarding the program, or if you are eligible, please feel free to call our office at 713-222-2828 for a free consultation.