Not every person who is arrested for a crime is a criminal. Sometimes, poor decisions can uproot your entire life and everything you’ve worked for up to now. One arrest doesn’t automatically make you a criminal, but it can certainly make you feel like one.
With serious consequences such as jail time, expensive fines and fees, disqualification from important aspects of your life, like employment in certain jobs and much more, an arrest, let alone a conviction, can haunt you forever, even if you have little or no criminal history. For those who were arrested in Williamson County and have little or no prior criminal history, there may be an alternative route that can keep your record clean.
Williamson County’s Pre-Trial Intervention Program seeks to divert certain offenders with little or no criminal history from traditional criminal justice. The program, with supervision and services administered by the Williamson County Community Supervision and Corrections Department, is offered by the Williamson County Attorney’s Office and is designed to educate and rehabilitate those who have committed certain misdemeanor offenses and are now facing criminal charges.
The Application Process
The application process for Williamson County’s Pre-Trial Intervention Program is rigorous. It combines an evidence-based assessment to identify offenders who are likely to respond to cognitive education and self-correction within a short period of six months, as well as a subjective component that occurs during an interview. So, if you’ve committed a crime and do not have a prior criminal history, or one that is limited to traffic tickets, you may be eligible to apply to the Williamson County Pre-Trial Intervention Program.
Your criminal defense attorney can help guide you through the process of applying and entering the Williamson County Pre-Trial Intervention Program. The application is a multi-step process, that does require the full participation of the applicant. Please note, that while you need to accept responsibility for your conduct, anything said in the application process CANNOT be used against you in the criminal case should you not be accepted into the program.
First off, you must submit a written application, on the approved governmental form, to determine if you are tentatively approved. Your application for the program must be submitted within six months of the date of your arrest or 10 business days prior to your first trial setting in court, whichever occurs first. Upon receipt of the ‘tentative’ approval, you move on to the assessment portion of the application process. from the Williamson County Attorney’s Office, meaning you’re approved to submit further assessments and informational documents to gain entry to the program.
The assessment phase called the Pre-Trial Intervention Risk Screening Assessment, includes a urinalysis screening to test for any recent illegal substances in your system, as well as a written assessment via an “objective” test, followed with an interview. The written assessment is similar to a personality indicator test and seeks to determine what risk areas may, or may not, exist for each application.
Unfortunately, like most things worth pursuing in life, the program does cost money, even if you were appointed an attorney. The assessment generally takes an hour to an hour and a half of your time and costs approximately $150, which must be paid prior to sitting down to take the assessment. Additionally, once approved for the program, there is a cost of $360, plus the cost of any classes that are required – for instance if you are facing a possession of marijuana charge or misdemeanor level possession of a controlled substance charge, you will need to take and complete a drug offender education program class, along with a substance abuse evaluation – both of which you need to pay for. These costs are in addition to what your attorney may charge you, or the recovery of the court-appointed attorney fee.
Once your assessments and drug screening are submitted, the prosecutor will review your application, consider the facts and circumstances in your case, determine if restitution is owed, consider your criminal history (this is where it helps to have none), and then consider any victim impact information provided. Once all factors are reviewed, the prosecutor will make the official decision on whether to approve or deny your application. If approved, you will be able to enter the Pre-Trial Intervention Program by signing a multipage Agreement that sets forth the terms of the program, what classes you need to take, and how much community service you need to perform. If you’re denied, your case will proceed in court as it were, but everything said in your application and in the assessment remains confidential and cannot be used against you. If you are denied, there is an appeal process; however, absent some unique circumstances, an appeal is rarely granted.
A Few Important Things To Know About the Pre-Trial Intervention Program
Before you go on with the impression that the Williamson County Pre-Trial Intervention Program is an easy way out, you need to understand the following:
The program is not your safe zone.
If you are accepted into the program and sign the Agreement, anything said, written, or admitted during the program can be used against you in future prosecution of your offense if you do not for any reason successfully complete the program. If you cannot adhere to their rules and regulations, violate any rules, or give up on the program entirely, your admission of guilt included in the written assessment you completed to gain entry to the program will be used as evidence to your formal guilty plea. Furthermore, part of the Agreement is a signed confession by you to the original charge. So, be very careful about agreeing to participate in the program and understand that any slipup, for instance, a failed drug test, can result in your immediate termination from the program and lead to your conviction on the underlying charge.
You must be willing to remain under supervision for six months.
While the PTI Program is a low-oversight, high-compliance program, that does not mean you are not supervised during the term of the program. You will need to report in electronically when scheduled, appear for drug tests when instructed to, and complete all class requirements and community service hours within the scheduled time frame. Failing to do any of these things within the required time can result in you being removed from the program and left to deal with the underlying criminal charges.
You may not have extensive or moderate criminal history.
In order to be eligible for entry to Williamson County’s Pre-Trial Intervention Program, you must not have any felony convictions, felony deferred adjunctions or any adjudicated felony offenses as a juvenile. You also may not have any criminal history involved offenses punishable by time in jail or prison within the last 10 years, regardless of disposition, or any adjudicated misdemeanor offenses as a juvenile within the past three years. While a few traffic tickets will be overlooked, an extensive history of violating the traffic laws may not be. Finally, please understand that when dealing with your criminal history, this does not mean crimes in just Texas, but crimes committed anywhere.
With programs like the Williamson County Pre-Trial Intervention Program in place, there is hope for first-time offenders to avoid costly fines and fees and jail-time. If you are facing criminal charges, you need a rigorous and zealous defense to fight for your rights.