Pretrial Diversion: Is It Right for You?

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If you’re charged with a crime in the State of Texas, you’ll likely go through the regular criminal justice processing system, which is somewhat familiar to most of us as a result of all the police procedurals on TV. Sometimes, however, there is another option called pretrial diversion.

This alternative to the traditional prosecutorial system affords eligible offenders a different path forward, and while it may be a good choice for you, it also comes with serious consequences of its own that you’ll need to factor in. If you’re facing a criminal charge, the best course of action is to consult with an experienced Round Rock criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Pretrial Diversion in Texas

Pretrial diversion is a criminal justice program intended to funnel defendants who qualify away from traditional criminal proceedings to reduce recidivism, which refers to a pattern of repeat offenses. The means of reducing recidivism include the provision of resources like the following:

  • Counseling

  • Treatment, such as for addiction or mental health concerns

  • Community supervision

  • Additional forms of rehabilitation

The idea is to help participants become more productive members of society by addressing some of the common root causes of criminal activity and avoiding incarceration, which doesn’t always deter recidivism. This alternative to jail time helps the state better manage its growing prison population and alleviate the serious economic strain it represents.

Not All Defendants Are Eligible

Pretrial diversion offers an alternate path that bypasses traditional criminal justice processes, but it does so only for certain offenders. While eligibility varies from case to case in accordance with the unique circumstances involved, the most important factor that must apply before you can be considered is that you are a first-time offender with no prior convictions on your record.

The following must also be true:

  • The crime you’re charged with can’t be violent in nature.

  • The crime you’re charged with must be considered low-level.

Factors like the following will also be taken into consideration when determining whether you’ll be offered pretrial diversion in the screening process:

  • Your age

  • Your employment history

  • Your status in terms of mental health

The specific requirements in Williamson County, include all the following:

  • The defendant must admit their guilt to the charge against them and must accept full responsibility for the crime.

  • The defendant can’t have an adult criminal history that involves the same or a similar offense to the current charge.

  • The defendant can’t have any felony convictions, felony deferred adjudications, or adjudicated felony offenses on their juvenile record.

  • The defendant can’t have any misdemeanor convictions or deferred adjudications on their adult record for the 10 years prior or any adjudicated misdemeanors on their juvenile record for the 3 years prior.

  • The defendant can’t have more than one criminal episode that resulted in the charge being dismissed within the 10 years prior, and the reason for the dismissal can’t be as a result of any pretrial diversion.

  • To fulfill the conditions of their pretrial diversion program, the defendant must have an email account and access to the Internet.

  • The defendant must be willing and able to allow monitoring that uses a camera-equipped ignition interlock device or another approved form of remote alcohol monitoring.

  • The defendant can’t include any material misinformation on their pretrial diversion application.

  • The defendant must pay any restitution they owe related to the current charge and provide proof of payment prior to signing the pretrial diversion contract.

  • The charge the defendant is facing can’t be related to public indecency, sexual offenses, the delivery of illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia, or driving while intoxicated involving injury to another.

  • The defendant must forfeit any weapon seized for any reason as part of their criminal case, which is left to the discretion of the Criminal Diversion Chief.

In other words, it’s a lot and doesn’t end there.

The Path Forward

To pursue a pretrial diversion, you’re well advised to work closely with a dedicated criminal defense attorney, and the steps involved include:

  • To begin, you’ll need to verify that you meet the minimum criteria for application.

  • From here, you’ll fill out the application, which you or your attorney can sign and send electronically.

  • Next, you must submit your application via email within 30 days of receiving an initial plea offer regarding your case.

  • This will lead to your attorney receiving a tentative approval or notice of denial. If you are tentatively approved, the notice will include instructions and contact information for moving forward with scheduling an appointment for a professional assessment.

  • Next, you’ll need to meet with the assessment provider to complete the required assessments and submit a drug test.

  • Final approval or denial will be sent to your attorney, and if you’re approved, an appointment will be scheduled to sign the agreement, which must happen within 30 days of approval.

Upon successful completion of your pretrial diversion program, the case against you will be dismissed. The arrest, however, will remain on your record, which means it can appear in both private and public background checks. Under certain circumstances, the arrest record can be expunged – or cleared from your record.

Pretrial Diversion Course Tracks

Pretrial diversion in Williamson County is divided into three course tracks that include:

  • Track One, which requires 6 months of supervision and a $360 program fee

  • Track Two, which requires 9 months of supervision and a $500 program fee

  • Track Three, which requires 12 months of supervision and a $500 program fee

The Kinds of Charges that Tend to Qualify for Pretrial Diversion

The kinds of low-level criminal charges that are most likely to qualify for pretrial diversion include the following:

  • Criminal mischief

  • Forgery

  • Credit card or debit card abuse

  • False statement to obtain property

  • Graffiti

  • Gift to public servant

  • Hindering apprehension or prosecution

  • Tampering with or fabricating evidence

  • Theft

Should I Seek Pretrial Diversion?

Every criminal charge is unique to the circumstances involved, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether pretrial diversion is the best option for the case at hand. Your focused criminal defense attorney will help you weigh your options and make the best choices for you—in relation to your unique case.

There are, however, some basic advantages and disadvantages to pretrial diversion programs that can provide you with a better understanding of what you’re up against.

The Advantages of Pretrial Diversion

There is a range of primary advantages to pretrial diversions.

Avoiding Jail Time

Pretrial diversion generally allows defendants to avoid jail time, which – for many people – is their primary concern. This perk not only keeps you out of jail but helps to ensure that you’ll be able to keep your job, continue supporting your family, keep your housing, and maintain your close and ongoing relationships with family members, friends, and loved ones.

Reducing Recidivism

As mentioned, pretrial diversion programs are closely associated with reduced recidivism. Being afforded an alternative to jail time – and coming that close to potential jail time – allows you to reassess your priorities and do what it takes to ensure you don’t find yourself in the same predicament again.

Further, the requirements for completing your program are likely to be intense and serve as a strong reminder of how far you’ve come and how much you’d like to put criminal matters well behind you.

Clearing Your Criminal Record

Once you’ve successfully completed your pretrial diversion program, which can be a fairly tall order, your record will be cleared of everything but your arrest. While you can truthfully deny a conviction, the arrest and your pretrial diversion – which requires an admission of guilt – can still be accessed through public records.

However, depending on the circumstances, you may be able to seal this record through expungement. It’s important to note that not all pretrial diversions are eligible for expungement. Deciding whether pretrial diversion is for you generally comes down to a balancing act, and having skilled legal guidance on your side is always in your best interest.

When your options are a conviction or pretrial diversion, the diversion is generally the way to go. This, however, assumes that you have no chance of beating the charge against you, and with a formidable criminal defense attorney in your corner, you may.

The Disadvantages of Pretrial Diversion

The backbone of the American criminal justice system remains that you are innocent until proven guilty. However, this may not provide you with much comfort when you’re staring down a potential jail sentence.

This said, admitting guilt for something you didn’t do as a means of cutting your losses is rarely a great plan. When you sign off on a pretrial diversion, you admit guilt to the underlying charge and give up the right to fight the charge.

The vast majority of criminal cases in Texas are settled out of court. This can include having the charge dropped altogether, which is a considerably better outcome than pretrial diversion. Your seasoned criminal defense attorney has the experience, legal insight, and drive to skillfully negotiate with the prosecution for your claim’s best possible resolution.

If the state refuses to drop the charge against you, proceeding to court—if your case is strong—may be a better option than giving in, admitting guilt, and taking the punishment the state prescribes. Sometimes, pretrial diversion is a great opportunity; sometimes, it’s just a sure thing that may not support your legal rights or brightest future.

Additional considerations to keep in mind include:

  • If the state has a weak case against you, bringing your strongest defense can prove highly effective.

  • If you fail to meet the highly specific requirements in your pretrial diversion program, you’ll return to square one, and the state can proceed with their original criminal charge against you.

  • The only way to clear the original arrest and the fact of your pretrial diversion from your record – if it’s possible at all – is through expungement, which isn’t available in all cases and can be a daunting process in and of itself.


The answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding pretrial diversion may help you with your own case.

Isn’t pretrial diversion – when available – always the best option?

While pretrial diversion can be an excellent option under many different circumstances, it’s not always the best option. The bottom line is that you must admit guilt in order to qualify, and fighting the charge against you in the face of your innocence and a strong defense may be a better path.

The most important point to make here is that you and your savvy criminal defense attorney will proceed with your best interests in mind.

Is pretrial diversion always an option?

No, pretrial diversion is only available under certain circumstances, which generally include the charge being your first and being a nonviolent offense that is on the less serious side of things.

Do I need an attorney?

When it comes to a matter as serious as a criminal charge and whether or not you pursue a pretrial diversion, it is always to your advantage to have trusted legal representation in your corner. Your future is too important to leave to chance.

It’s Time to Consult with an Experienced Round Rock Criminal Defense Attorney

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is a practiced Round Rock criminal defense attorney who will leave no stone unturned in his focused efforts to obtain your case’s optimal outcome, which may or may not include pretrial diversion.

Learn more by contacting or calling us at 254-781-4222 and scheduling a free consultation today.

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