The only one of its kind in the state, a deferred prosecution program in Travis County allows a second chance for some fortunate and remorseful felony-accused defendants. Though not all prosecutors are supportive of this move, the Travis County DA stands by her decision to screen some first-time, nonviolent offenders into programs that save them from a criminal record.
Deferred prosecution is a program typically reserved for misdemeanor cases. It is sort of like a second chance, being granted to people who would otherwise not be involved in the court system. These aren’t career criminals and are far more likely to be one-time mistake makers.
A deferred prosecution case, similar to the one being offered to some felons in Travis County, involves the defendant admitting guilt, expressing remorse, and being granted an opportunity to make the situation right. Usually this involves a period of probation when successfully completed results in the defendant’s file being, in essence, thrown out, leaving no permanent criminal record.
DA Rosemary Lehmberg states “Not all prosecutors want to do it.” But as the American-Statesman reports, some do it without explicitly putting a name on it. The DA of Hays County states she doesn’t have a formal program like Lehmberg but does reach agreements similar to hers in her own jurisdiction.
Lehmberg points out that local drug courts do similar things for addicts but no such second-chance was given to people who weren’t addicted to drugs and made a one-time mistake. She hopes with careful screening of applicants she can divert some who would otherwise be spending time in jail or with a permanent record into a program that can serve all parties more productively.
To get approved for Lehmberg’s program, a defendant must submit a letter detailing the facts of the offense and their role in it. They should also explain why they want to be granted deferred prosecution and given the second chance. In exchange, Lehmberg states her program will ensure people of all walks of life are granted the opportunity if their circumstances are appropriate.
At least one District Attorney states the program makes Lehmberg judge and jury, tarnishing the aim of the court system altogether. But, Lehmberg warns attorneys not to push clients into possible deferred prosecution, particularly if there’s a chance they won’t be successful. The reason for her words of warning is that because the defendant must admit to the crime, they could have a hard time getting a even remotely favorable outcome if they fail deferred prosecution and end up in front of a judge.
Drug courts and deferred prosecution programs are just a few of the alternatives out there. These kind of opportunities vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If you are facing criminal charges, contact us today to speak with a local Texas criminal defense attorney.