If you have a clear record and are charged with a case such as a theft or drug possession, there are two ways- deferred adjudication, and pretrial diversion- to keep these off your criminal record. There are benefits to both, and you should talk with a criminal defense attorney about which of these is right for you.
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Deferred Adjudication in a Criminal Case
Deferred adjudication in Texas can be as short as 6 months in some courts, usually up to a 1 year probation. You will have to plead guilty to the judge, and the judge will explain they are setting aside finding of guilt until you’ve completed probation successfully.
As part of the deferred adjudication probation, you will be required to do random drug testing, a drug/alcohol evaluation, 12-24 hours of community service, an anti-theft class and meet with a probation officer monthly.
The result of successfully completing these requirements is that you will have no criminal conviction, and you can later file a petition for nondisclosure of this case. That means it can be sealed from most people but remains visible to government agencies and law enforcement.
Pretrial Diversion for Criminal Charges
Pretrial diversion is a program you first must apply to be accepted into. Every court has different requirements, but most include you write a letter to DA admitting guilt, show proof of employment or education, and letters of recommendation from non-family members.
If you are accepted into the program, you will sign a 1 year contract with the DA’s office, that lays out the details of your agreement. These usually include similar conditions to deferred adjudication, but with 80 hrs community service, and there is a zero tolerance policy for any mistakes made during the year.
The result after a year is the outright dismissal of the case. You have to wait 2 years from the date of dismissal, but you can then file a motion to expunge from your criminal history, which completely clears the charge off your record.
Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Defense
During your first meeting, your attorney will ask you a LOT of questions in order to get to know you and your case. You will be asked to provide your full name and contact information, your education and employment history, family history, previous criminal record, and other background information. You may also be asked to fill out a written questionnaire. The questions may seem like they go on forever, but this is all important info that your attorney needs to know!
You’ll also be asked to bring documentation to your meeting. Documents such as arrest and bail paperwork, as well as written info regarding court dates are very important. A list of possible witnesses can be crucial as well.
You should also come armed with your own questions to ask your lawyer, such as their experience with cases similar to yours, their success rate, initial thoughts about your defense, and more.
The first and most important answer to this question is to keep your mouth shut. Don’t talk about your case to the police, prosecutors, or even friends and family. And definitely don’t post on social media. Anything you say really can be used against you later in court.
Next, if possible, gather evidence that could prove your innocence. Take pictures of the the scene, and get the names of witnesses.
Ask to see a warrant. You’re entitled to review it if there is one.
And finally, hire a criminal defense attorney who knows the area of law related to your case, and who has a record of winning cases.
Unlike a person’s credit report, which usually only goes back 7 – 10 years, a criminal record will remain on a person’s public record indefinitely. In Texas, there are two ways to ensure that an arrest isn’t following you around for the rest of your life: expungements and orders of non-disclosure.
An expungement is when an individual requests that all records relating to an arrest be sealed — effectively removing or “expunging” them from the public record. A person who has successfully obtained an expunction can legally say that the arrest never happened.
If a person is not eligible for expunction in Harris County, they may be eligible for their records to be sealed, also known as Orders of Non–Disclosure. This does not completely remove an arrest from your record like an expungement, but it does seal it from public record.
An arrest record in Texas cannot be expunged or sealed for some more serious crimes, like capital murder, sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, possession of child pornography, child endangerment, violating a protective order and family violence.
Get Help Protecting Your Rights
Before making any decisions on how to handle your criminal charges, the most important thing you can do is speak to an experienced Houston criminal attorney. Lisa Shapiro Strauss Attorney at Law is a dedicated criminal defense attorney who has helped many people throughout Harris County to find the best possible resolution to their criminal cases.
As a former prosecutor, Lisa understands well the serious, lasting consequences associated with criminal charges. She knows how to assess the facts of a case to help her clients make an informed decision on how to move forward. She fights hard to protect her clients’ rights safeguard their records.
With more than 20 years of experience, Lisa is well-versed in the criminal justice system and knows how the prosecution will approach your case. She draws on her experience and skills to thoroughly review the details of your case and help you implement the best defense strategy.
Whether you’re facing drug charges, domestic violence accusations or a theft case, contact Lisa Shapiro Strauss today.