We all make mistakes—unfortunately, for some of us, those mistakes can have legal consequences. While the aftermath of a criminal arrest can be traumatic, the existence of a number of first offender programs in Texas can give you the opportunity for a second chance.
The Function and Purpose of a First Offender Program
A first-time offender program is one that includes a rehabilitative component, allowing the defendant to escape the full penalty or consequences of a conviction or plea. As a general rule, a first-time offender program includes mandatory participation in certain types of counseling or training. Depending on the nature of the offense, the defendant may be required to submit to certain types of treatment and may have a mandatory period of probation. It’s also customary not to enter the probation into the official record, provided the defendant meets all the terms.
The Texas First Offender Programs
Texas offers a number of first-time offender, or diversionary, programs:
- There are first offender drug programs, usually available to first-time drug offenders who have no other pending prosecutions.
- Some counties offer mental health diversionary programs—These options, such as the Denton Mental Health Treatment Court, give offenders with mental illness the opportunity to remove charges and convictions from their records
- There are also general first-time pre-trial diversion programs
Though it’s not specifically a “program,” HB 3016, recently enacted by the Texas Senate, gives convicted persons in Texas the right not to disclose a conviction when applying for a job. Basically a “second chance” act, it applies only to individuals convicted of low-level, non-violent offenses.
Expunging a Conviction under HB 3016
If you are looking for a second chance under the new Texas law, you’ll need to file a petition for expunction with one of the Texas civil courts. The process can be complicated, so it’s important that you have an experienced attorney to protect your rights. You can also anticipate that the prosecutor may show up at your expunction hearing and may bring law enforcement officers, in an attempt to refute your request.
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.