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.
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.
There are changes coming for the Pre-Trial Diversion Programs by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. The most important change has to do with the ability of an individual to apply for an expunction on the case.
Harris County’s new program, the First Chance Intervention Program has been initiative by the DA’s Office, in cooperation with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department. It is for individuals caught with a class B amount (0-2 ounces) of marijuana.
There are new deadlines in the timing of pre-trial diversions. This morning in county court 5 of Harris County I had a client’s application denied for the pre-trial intervention program because she did not submit her application on time. As of recently, you must submit your application within 60 days of your first court appearance. My client submitted her application on day 68.