Pretrial diversion (or pre-trial intervention) is a fairly common  way to resolve cases especially minor misdemeanors. It is not available in every county, and the way it is set up and administered can vary depending on which county you are in. In McLennan County, it is formally called the Pre-trial Intervention Program, or PTIP for short.

Here, I want to explain what it is and how it operates so that you can have a basic understanding of what's involved. This explanation covers McLennan County, so if you are in another county this may not be the way the program works there - if they even have one.

Difference between pretrial diversion and probation

The best way to explain PTIP, is by comparing it with probation. In a probation case - whether it be a regular probation or deferred adjudication -  you go to court and enter a plea. In a deferred adjudication case the judge finds that there's enough evidence to find you guilty and defers a finding of guilt. In a regular probation case the judge would find you guilty, and then place you on probation for a certain term. For example you might be placed on probation for 15 months.

The terms (or conditions of) of probation, can vary, but there are several that are imposed in every case. The obvious one is that one you don't get in any trouble - which is pretty basic; after all, everyone is supposed to that do that anyway. Generally, you will have to report to a probation officer at least once a month; you will also have probation fees to pay which are usually $60 a month.

Most probation orders have some type of class that you have to attend, and sometimes there will be more than one. There will usually be some amount of community service, and there may be other  terms that are that are specific to the particular type of case you have.For example, assault cases, especially family violence cases, may have some type of anger-management class. There may be other types of cases that involve different types of classes or programs; another example is theft cases, which typically have some type of financial planning class.

In a deferred adjudication case, once the term of probation expires the court would enter an order dismissing the case and discharging you from probation, In a regular probation case at the end of the term there would  be an order discharging you from probation.

Pretrial intervention  works in a similar way, although there are some significant differences. A big difference, at least in McLennan County, is that pretrial diversion is not administered by the court and it's not administered by the probation department. Instead, it's a program that runs out of the district attorney's office. That means that unlike a normal probation case where you would report to a probation officer, in a pretrial diversion case you don't report to anybody. Instead, you take care of whatever is required, such as community service and completion of classes, and then you show proof that you've done it to the pretrial diversion office.

Conditions of pretrial diversion

The terms of pretrial diversion are generally similar to the terms that would be imposed in a probation case. There are classes, community service and there's always some type of fee involved, although in pretrial diversion you're not actually paying a monthly fee so you don't have that cost. 

Because of the advantages you are receiving under pretrial diversion, and because there is not anybody watching over your,  the terms of pretrial diversion may be more  stringent than you might see in a probation case This is especially applicable true in cases involving alcohol such as DW.I In regular probation you would be prohibited from drinking, and you would have random UA’s and random drug tests to make sure you weren't drinking. If your breath test was high or if you're a repeat offender you might have an order that required you to impose an interlock on your car.

If you are granted pre-trial diversion in a DWI case you're probably going to have some type of monitoring that's going to be far more stringent than what would be imposed if you were on regular probation. You are going to start out with some type of monitoring that is done on a daily basis. The most common one is a remote breath device which is something that you have to take with you, or have available, and blow into it a few times a day to verify that you haven't had anything to drink. There may also be a requirement that you submit to hair follicle testing to make sure that you haven't been drinking over the last 90 days. Those conditions are generally imposed at the beginning, and continue  for three to six months. After that condition expires, there's generally a requirement for an interlock for an additional few months.  

When will your case be dismissed

You probably want to know what happens on your case if you are accepted into PTIP. In misdemeanor cases, once​ you sign the agreement the case is dismissed which means that you no longer have a case pending in court. If there's no case pending in court then it would just be refused so you wouldn't end up with the case in court. Felony cases are handled differently, since they are more serious. Instead of dismissing the case when the agreement is signed, they will wait to dismiss the case until the diversion period is completed.

You have to admit guilt when you accept pretrial diversion

There are a couple of things you need to be aware before you decide to seek pre-trial diversion. The first is that under the program in McLennan County, you are required to sign an agreement that admits guilt. That means that it is not available if you are contesting your guilt, or don’t want to admit to committing the offense. While at first blush that might not seem fair, the reasoning does make sense. You should not be agreeing to any type of conditions if you didn’t commit an offense. Also, as a practical matter, if you are don’t believe you are guilty you are going to resent the conditions imposed on you, which makes it less likely that you are going to successfully complete the program.

Another thing to be aware of is that you are usually required to admit the offense you were charged with. Sometimes, an officer files a more serious charge than the evidence realistically supports. The attorney screening the case might recognize that, and file a lesser offense. Alternatively, your lawyer may work with the prosecutor to get a reduced charge. If you enter into pre-trial diversion agreement, especially if you do it early before charges are formally filed, you may have to accept the offense you were charged with.

Hopefully this provides you with a  basic or general understanding of pretrial diversion and how it works and as always if you have any questions about the specifics or how it operates or the facts of your case please let us know

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.