A DWI conviction can adversely affect your entire life. Its consequences include serving time in jail/prison or paying thousands of dollars in fines, save for the effects on your education, future goals, job, and family. Thankfully, there’s a way you can avoid facing or reducing these consequences. Texas offers pretrial diversion programs, which you are highly likely to be eligible for if you are a first-time DWI offender. Once you complete this program, you can expunge the DWI conviction from your criminal record and remain clean.
But a Texas DWI pretrial diversion process is complicated. For instance, it has qualification requirements based on your admission to the program. You are obligated to adhere to the program’s terms and conditions flawlessly. You’ll need a skilled DWI criminal defense attorney to walk you through what you are supposed to do and help you with the application process to increase your admission chances. If you face charges in Fort Worth and the surrounding neighborhoods, contact us at Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer, and we can help you.
Overview of Texas DWI Pretrial Diversion
DWI pretrial diversion program is also referred to as DWI pretrial intervention program, deferred prosecution, accelerated rehabilitative disposition, or accelerated pretrial rehabilitation.
In Texas, DWI pretrial diversion is a voluntary program for offenders facing driving-while-intoxicated charges for the first time. The program removes an accused from prosecution before a nolo contendere or guilty plea. In simple terms, pretrial diversion is essentially probation without being on probation. You do everything you would usually do on probation, but you do so while your case is still pending.
The District attorney (DA) will halt your case so you can complete serving the terms and conditions of the program, which may include community service, counseling, and probation, among others. When you complete your assigned program, the DA will recommend that the judge dismiss your charges on your last court date. If the case is dismissed, it will ultimately qualify for expunction.
DWI pretrial diversion program gives the accused a way to atone for their transgressions without most of the long-lasting effects of a conviction or deferred adjudication. Usually, the County Probation Department (Community Supervision Department) supervises the program and requires you to pay a monthly supervision fee. But since your case has been diverted out of the criminal court system, no court costs or fines are assessed on a pretrial diversion program. Each defendant’s specific program is personalized to their case, and the requirements for each program vary based on the defendant’s charges and rehabilitative needs.
This program is designed for defendants who are guilty but don’t want to go to trial. Of course, if you are innocent, your lawyer will help you fight up to the end. But after the lawyer evaluates the case and there are higher chances of a conviction, you want to look at options that can lead to you having your destiny in your hands. DWI pretrial diversion could be one of these options.
The Purpose of a DWI Pretrial Diversion
The main reasons for a DWI pretrial diversion are:
- To save judicial and prosecutorial resources for concentration on major offenses.
- To prevent any future criminal conduct from specific individuals by keeping them away from the traditional criminal process.
- To provide an avenue for restitution to the victims and communities affected.
Qualifying for a Texas DWI Pretrial Diversion
When the court rules that you are eligible for a DWI pretrial diversion, it’s essentially placing a bet that you will learn the state’s drunk-driving statutes and will not face charges for driving while intoxicated again. The court does not want to lose that bet. Therefore, it is not straightforward about who may be eligible for DWI pretrial diversion, and its terms and conditions are a lot. For you to qualify, you have to:
- Have an authentic driver’s license
- Have no other previous arrests (regardless of whether you were convicted or not)
- Be in school or employed full-time.
- Not have violated the Texas open container statute at the time of your arrest.
- Submit to a urine test
- Agree to an interview with The Chief Pretrial Services Officer
- Agree to an FBI background check and fingerprinting
- Be capable of paying the fee related to the diversion program (usually $302)
Just like most Texas legal proceedings, your case could vary based on the judge or court. For instance, the Fort Worth County DWI pretrial diversion program might have different requirements or terms and conditions than the Harris County program. The following are other additional requirements for a DWI pretrial program that the judge might need you to do. Some judges, based on your case, may order that you should:
- Not have been in a road crash at the time of your arrest.
- Have had auto insurance at the time of your arrest.
- Not have had blood or breath tests that exhibited a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level over or at 0.15%.
A skilled DWI lawyer may be capable of helping you navigate all these requirements.
If you qualify, you won’t necessarily be enrolled in the DWI pretrial diversion program. This means if you’re eligible for the program, you won’t be admitted in case the Pretrial Services Department believes or thinks you will possibly be back in court again.
To evade this fate, you will need to prove to the Pretrial Services Department that you are a decent individual who truly regrets driving while intoxicated ( you can easily do this when it is true). Be genuine and repentant in your explanations to the department. Treat everybody you will interact with at the time of your application with respect.
That being said, it is not over by just being enrolled in the diversion program. Your fate is still heavily dependent on your successful completion of whatever program to which you’ll be admitted.
The Application Process
Your attorney kicks off the application process by asking the prosecution to evaluate your case for eligibility for the DWI diversion program. If the prosecutor approves the case, it will let your lawyer know. In certain courts, a defense lawyer may need to seek the judge’s approval as well. Apart from the requirements above, the judge may also evaluate your criminal history to determine if:
- You have no history of stalking or violating restraining orders.
- You have no violent offenses on your criminal record.
- Your criminal history relates directly to substance abuse or alcohol.
Once your case is approved, your attorney will help you complete the application process for the program. The application asks you to provide your basic info. It also requires you to give a brief statement explaining where you were on the night of your arrest, how much alcohol you consumed, where you were going, and a reason why you have to be admitted to the pretrial diversion program.
The prosecution will mainly want to know why the diversion program is more appropriate for you than the standard probation that leads to a conviction. You’ll also need to complete a waiver form. Essentially, the waiver states that should you violate the terms and conditions of the program, the DA can cancel your contract, and any statement you wrote in your application could be used against you should you decide to proceed to trial and testify.
Should everything be approved, the prosecution sends your attorney a copy of the contract. You should review this contract with your attorney’s help to make sure you comprehend all of its obligations and terms.
On the day of court, your attorney will present the judge with the contract to enter an order agreeing to your admission to the diversion program. Your case will be reset for one year. In a year, if you’ve completed the diversion program successfully, your charges are dismissed.
Completing the DWI Pretrial Diversion Program
Any pretrial diversion program in Texas is customizable. The plan you are assigned depends on what the Pretrial Services Department believes would be most helpful to you and your background. However, the most prevalent programs the department usually assigns include all or some of these:
- A curfew
- A program running for between 12 to 18 months
- Drug tests
- Installation of an IID (ignition interlock device) in the car
- The requirement to seek permission if you want to travel out of the state
- Regular community service
- Counseling and classes (neither, one, or both)
- Reporting to a probation officer regularly (via mail)
Mostly, the department determines whether your problem is drinking- or drug-related. Their conclusions and the circumstances surrounding your crime will help establish the program you will be assigned.
Typically, DWI pretrial diversion programs are completed in 24 months. The court will require you to undergo assessments and intake to analyze your chemical dependency. This includes a mandatory alcohol or substance abuse evaluation at the start of the program. The following are the different phases of a typical DWI diversion program in Texas:
Phase 1 (at least eight weeks long) with the following requirements:
- Present yourself in court two times a month
- An hour of individual substance abuse counseling a month
- Minimum twelve hours of group substance abuse counseling a month
- Install an IIID in your car
- Participate in twelve-step meetings and acquire a sponsor
Phase 2 (at least twelve weeks long) with these requirements:
- Adhere to random alcohol and drug screenings
- Complete the driving-while-intoxicated offender course
- Present yourself in court two times per month
- At least five hours of substance abuse group counseling per week
- If need be, take part in nonsubstance abuse treatment.
- Participate in twelve-step meetings
Phase 3 (at least twenty-four weeks long) with these requirements:
- Adhere to random alcohol and drug screenings
- Make court appearances once per month.
- Minimum of two hours of substance abuse group counseling a week
- If need be, take part in nonsubstance abuse treatment.
- Participate in twelve-step meetings
Phase 4 (at least twelve months-long) with the following requirement:
- Attend supportive and aftercare services as assigned
What Happens If You Violate the Terms and Conditions of DWI Pretrial Diversion Program
Regardless of how your program looks like, should you violate any of its terms and conditions, the DA will terminate it and take you back to court to start pursuing the case against you all over again. It will be as though you’d never been placed in the program. You won’t receive any credit for the expenses, accomplishments, or time while in the program.
DWI Pretrial Intervention With the Prosecution
If you don’t qualify for DWI pretrial diversion, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any other favorable options you can pursue. DWI pretrial diversion programs aren’t available in the Dallas metroplex area, making defendants in these counties want to try pretrial intervention with the prosecution.
Firstly, a knowledgeable and dedicated DWI defense lawyer ought to always be willing and ready to fight to prove a defendant’s innocence during trial. However, if that isn’t possible in your case, the pretrial process has several steps. Your lawyer can hold negotiations with the DA at these steps to work out a more favorable outcome for your case, including a plea deal for lesser included DWI crime like reckless driving or obstructing a highway. After all, the prosecutor’s job is to deliver justice in the public interest instead of just winning cases.
Factors that usually affect the prosecution’s willingness to dismiss or reduce your case include:
- Your past criminal record,
- Your readiness to go for rehabilitation if required,
- The county docket’s caseload,
- The strength of the prosecution’s case against you, and
- The likelihood that you will become a repeat offender
The strength of the DA’s case against you is a critical factor. Your lawyer could either intervene/negotiate with the DA and try to make them see the weakness in their case. Alternatively, he/she may weaken the DA’s case through these methods:
- Motion to disqualify or exclude testimony
- Motion to suppress
- Motion to strike off the defendant’s supposed confession
- Showing inadequate proof in the DA’s case
- Proof of unreliable or inaccurate urine or BAC tests
- Evidence of preexisting medical or physical condition that’s not alcohol-related that resulted in suspicion of driving while intoxicated
- Evidence of violation of legal rights
- Lack of probable cause
- Evidence of procedural violations by the police
In situations where the DA has enough proof and won’t agree to a reduced charge, your lawyer can try to cut a deal in other different ways. For instance, he/she could petition to have your case handled in a Felony or Misdemeanor DWI court or seek to have specific DWI penalties excluded from the list of punishments you will face.
A DWI court isn’t a pretrial diversion program. Instead, it’s a guilty plea deal agreement with more favorable terms. The terms may include suspended jail term, probation, community service, waived fines, waived occupational driver’s license (ODL) fees (for ODL-qualified applicants, and a reduced probation fee in exchange for compulsory alcohol and drug treatment and education. Whatever the eligibility and case’s circumstances for special courts or reduction, you must always consult an experienced DWI lawyer before making any drastic decision, such as pleading guilty.
Pretrial Diversion for Reduced DWI Charges
As we mentioned before, Dallas metroplex counties don’t have DWI pretrial diversion programs. But it is worth noting that there’s no lesser included crime for driving while intoxicated in Texas. Thus, a charge reduction from DWI to any other offense like obstruction of a highway or reckless driving is essentially when the DA withdraws your DWI charge then replaces it with the new charges.
With proper intervention by your lawyer with the DA, you might qualify for these pretrial programs and methods with your new charge:
- Deferred disposition
- Memo agreement
- Deferred adjudication
- Divert drug court
- Collin County pretrial diversion program
Pretrial Diversion vs. Other Outcomes
Most people confuse DWI pretrial diversion with DWI probation, orders of nondisclosure, and deferred adjudication. However, there are critical differences you should know.
A popular misconception is that a completed deferred adjudication leads to a clean record, but this simply isn’t true. In Texas, people who are guilty of DWI are sometimes monitored through a process known as probation (community supervision). Probation typically means that you can walk freely in the community rather than be locked up in prison or jail but have to comply with given conditions like undergoing an alcohol or drug treatment program and not committing another crime.
Usually, probation comes after a conviction. But there’s a special kind of probation known as deferred adjudication, which is generally offered to first-time offenders. Deferred adjudication leads to a charge dismissal if completed.
You can then seek to keep your charges out of public view by applying for an order of nondisclosure. It is worth noting that completing a deferred adjudication won’t automatically seal your record. You must seek an order of nondisclosure. Even if the judge agrees to it, your charge will still be visible to the police and state organizations that oversee particular professions like nursing and teaching. Additionally, in given situations, like when you need to adopt a child, the order of nondisclosure won’t keep the case from being seen.
DWI Pretrial Diversion and Record Expungement
You could expunge your DWI charge once you have completed your diversion program. This is how it works: If you finish the program without any problem, the DA will file a motion seeking to dismiss the charges against you, making you qualify to expunge your DWI charge for your criminal record.
Note that the expungement process is entirely different. You will have to file a petition in the county where the charges were filed requesting your DWI to be expunged and pay an expungement fee (around $600). You must include particular info about your arrest, the court proceedings, and other ministerial information involved with the DWI incident in your petition. After filing the petition, some counties will require that a hearing be scheduled, at which point the judge will consider your request and any objection the DA may have. Your lawyer may be capable of convincing the DA not to raise any objections, in which case no hearing will be required. The expungement request can be granted soon after your case ends or even several months or years later.
Unlike other programs like deferred adjudication, when your DWI is expunged upon completion of your pretrial diversion program, your record is indeed clean. This means you can legally deny that you have ever been arrested in your employment applications or any other context. Texas’s law makes it an offense to disclose information about an expunction order knowingly. It is also a crime to fail to destroy that information intentionally. A person could face civil penalties too. Expungement is effective and powerful in giving you a fresh start.
When is a DWI Pretrial Diversion Bad for You?
You aren’t an appropriate candidate for a DWI pretrial diversion program if any of these reasons apply to you:
- You’re a heavy drinker and won’t stop (you’ll be caught)
- You’re a heavy drug user and won’t stop (you’ll be caught as well)
- You think you would violate the law again.
- You won’t be approved (there’s no need to go through the application process and confess to everything if you won’t even be approved)
- You do not have a driver’s license and won’t be able to stop driving (you will be caught)
Early Termination of DWI Pretrial Diversion Program
You may be allowed to file a petition for early termination of your DWI pretrial diversion program if you’ve completed all the terms and conditions of the program and have served a considerable period under supervision. Generally, a judge will grant the petition after an accused has done 50% to 75% of their supervision time.
Find a Competent DWI Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Having a DWI conviction on your criminal record may make you miss several opportunities in life. Whether it is a drunk-driving or drugged-driving charge, you need the help of a lawyer to fight it off your record. At Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer, we employ every possible strategy to ensure our clients receive the best possible outcome for their DWI cases, including helping them apply for pretrial diversion programs where applicable. We’re skilled, aggressive, and we know how to navigate the system for favorable case outcomes. If you face DWI charges in Fort Worth and the surrounding areas, call us today at 817-470-2128 for a free case evaluation before offering legal advice and developing a defense strategy.