Pretrial Intervention Programs and How They Work

By | July 21, 2016

What Are Pretrial Intervention Programs?

In the criminal justice system, most people who are charged with crimes are either tried and convicted or offered a plea deal. In general, these people are usually assigned a punishment, such as probation, and are then expected to carry out the terms of the punishment.

In some cases, there is a slightly different step in this process. Pretrial intervention programs are used to turn a criminal punishment into an opportunity. Although these programs are not used in every case, they have become very popular with both courtrooms and defendants. Check out this article to find out why these programs have been so successful.

The Need for an Alternative

The criminal justice system in this country is overloaded, to say the least. For a variety of reasons, more people than ever before are being convicted and sent to jails and prisons. Keeping people in jail, sending them through the court system and hiring more law enforcement have placed a huge burden on the judicial system and the taxpayers.

Pretrial intervention programs are a direct response to this growing problem. They accomplish this goal in several ways:

  • Fewer Inmates

Pretrial intervention programs give defendants a greater motive to successfully complete their term of probation. If they follow through on their probation terms, they can move on with their lives and pass out of the system.

If they are not offered this motivation, they may be more likely to violate their probation and be incarcerated. Keeping more people out of jail is good for the public and the court.

  • Reduced Recidivism

Having the stain of a criminal record on your file can seriously derail your life. A conviction for even a non-violent offense, such as theft, can make it extremely hard to get a steady job. When a person from a disadvantaged neighborhood can’t get a good-paying job because of a mistake they made as a young adult, they are much more likely to commit an offense to support themselves.

Intervention programs keep records clean so that defendants can make better futures.

  • Lower Costs

Trials are expensive. Incarceration is expensive. Assigning public defenders is expensive.

Nearly every aspect of the judicial process costs money. Intervention programs justify their cost by reducing the number of people who must be processed back into the system when they violate probation or commit another crime. These cost savings are extremely lucrative when projected into the future.

How Pretrial Interventions Work

Pretrial interventions, also known as deferred adjudication, are quite similar to standard probation and community supervision. The primary difference is the temporary suspension of prosecution. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Standard/”Straight” Probation

Ordinary probation is a type of punishment that is intended to make a defendant repay the community for his or her crimes without the need for incarceration. In fact, straight probation is a type of diversion program itself because it routes convicted defendants away from jail or prison and back into society where they can benefit their community.

However, standard probation is a punishment that is handed down AFTER a person has been convicted of the offense for which they were charged. As a result, that person still has a conviction on their record, possibly for the rest of their lives. This is true whether or not they successfully complete probation or violate their terms.

If they do violate their terms, however, their probation is forfeited and they will be subject to the entire terms of their original punishment.

  • Pretrial Intervention/Deferred Adjudication

These programs delay the prosecution stage and the passing of a sentence to give the defendant a chance to redeem themselves. Typically, non-violent or low-level offenders are given a chance to complete a term of probation rather than being prosecuted and likely convicted of their crime.

If they successfully complete their probation, they may have their initial charge dropped which keeps their record clean of a conviction.

Their probation may not actually be different from standard probation. However, if they violate the terms of their pretrial program, they may be convicted under the terms of their initial CHARGE, not their initial conviction, because they were never actually convicted. This means that they can face up to the maximum punishment allowed by the law for their charge.

Pretrial Diversions

Some states use a type of program called pretrial diversions. In effect, these programs may be virtually identical to pretrial interventions and deferred adjudication programs.

In many cases, these programs differ in name rather than function or details.

When They Are Assigned

Pretrial intervention programs are not available in all cases. They are typically only used in cases where the defendant has no previous criminal record and is charged with committing a non-violent, low-level offense, such as:

  • Minor drug possession
  • Theft of an inexpensive item
  • Assault
  • DWI

About Author:

Houston defense lawyer Greg Tsioros provides legal advice and aggressive representation for clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies at both the state and federal level. Mr. Tsioros handles criminal defense cases of any stature – from orders of non-disclosure and expunctions to more serious DWI and drug charges. With years of experience as a state prosecutor and as an accomplished Houston criminal defense attorney, Greg Tsioros is prepared to defend you from virtually any criminal accusation. No matter how complicated your particular circumstances may be, Mr. Tsioros will work tirelessly to ensure that your rights are protected and never taken for granted.

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