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Deferred Prosecution in Travis County

Deferred Prosecution: What it Is and How it Can Help You If You’ve Been Charged With a Crime in Travis County

Deferred Prosecution in Travis County has taken a step back over recent years with a new County Attorney and District Attorney reducing the number of defendants accepted. Still, a Deferred Prosecution program or an analog can be a great fit for some people charged with a crime in Travis.

This program typically involves the defendant agreeing to comply with specific prosecutorial conditions such as undergoing counseling, completing community service, or participating in educational programs. The goal is rehabilitation over punishment, and for those who successfully adhere to the stringent criteria, the benefits are substantial.

The prosecution agrees to suspend action on the charges for a set time period, and if the defendant satisfies all the terms, the charges are dismissed, allowing the person to move forward without the collateral consequences of a conviction. This is a program run by the DA, so you won’t find it in any statute. They control the terms, but at the end of the day, the reward is a dismissal without the need for a jury trial.

A Deferred Prosecution program can be an effective tool to avoid jury trial and conviction

Eligibility Requirements for a Deferred Prosecution Agreement

Eligibility for a deferred prosecution agreement is not a blanket provision in the criminal justice system. It is primarily designed for defendants with no prior convictions or only minor brushes with the law, offering a reprieve from the enduring effects of a criminal act. The eligibility requirements enforced solely by Travis County prosecutors.

For instance, individuals accused of serious fraud or violent offenses may find it more challenging to be considered for deferred prosecution agreements, as public safety concerns take precedence. The discretionary power of the prosecutor weighs heavily, considering factors like the defendant’s willingness to make amends, their level of involvement in the crime, and their potential for rehabilitation.

Key Benefit of Deferred Prosecution – Avoid a Criminal Conviction

One of the most significant advantages of a deferred prosecution agreement is the ability to sidestep a formal criminal conviction. This route is particularly advantageous for a defendant who might otherwise face substantial obstacles in their personal and professional life due to a conviction. The absence of a criminal conviction can mean the difference between facing a future hindered by a criminal record and having the opportunity for a fresh start. For a company accused of wrongdoing, avoiding conviction through a deferred prosecution agreement can prevent the debilitating impact of fines and sanctions, preserving its ability to operate and contribute to the economy. This is not about evading justice, but rather allowing defendants to demonstrate accountability for their actions without the detrimental effects of a criminal record.

DPA Application Process

The path to securing a deferred prosecution agreement is strewn with procedural requirements that demand attention to detail and a comprehensive understanding of the legal system. The defendant’s application for a deferred prosecution program must be compelling enough to convince the court and the prosecutor of their commitment to change.

Importantly, you are not required to admit guilt, but you must show an openness to remedial actions such as paying restitution to victims or taking remedial classes.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You Get Into a Deferred Prosecution Program

An experienced criminal defense attorney acts as a navigator, steering defendants through the stormy waters of prosecution. They provide more than just legal counsel; they stand as the defendant’s representative, ensuring that the terms of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement are fair and achievable. While deferred prosecutions are great for many defendants, they are not the right choice for everyone who qualifies.

The attorney must be adept at presenting a case that articulates the defendant’s suitability for the program, often highlighting their past good conduct, susceptibility to positive change, and the disproportionate impact a criminal conviction might have on their life. The defense attorney’s role is pivotal in aligning the goals of the defendant with the requirements of the prosecutors, facilitating a resolution that serves the interests of justice while maximizing the defendant’s prospects for a future unmarred by a criminal conviction.

A lawyer can help you decide whether deferred prosecution is preferred to a plea bargain.

Formal Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs)

A formal deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) is a fantastic second chance for many defendants. For individuals, this might involve community service, counseling, or restitution. It is a legally binding pact between the defendant and the prosecutor and is a manifestation of the criminal justice system’s recognition that some defendants warrant an opportunity to rectify their wrongs without enduring the full punitive potential of the law.

Deferred Prosecution vs. Probation

It’s essential to distinguish deferred prosecution from probation as they occupy different spaces in the realm of legal outcomes. Probation is a sentence handed down by the court, typically after a defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty. It allows the person to remain in the community under court-imposed conditions.

On the other hand, deferred prosecution suspends the prosecutorial process itself, allowing the defendant to avoid a trial and, potentially, a criminal record. If the terms of the DPA are met, the prosecutor dismisses the charges, which means the individual or company will not be convicted, provided that they adhere to the agreed-upon conditions, such as engaging in community service or making restitution to victims. This significant difference can affect a defendant’s future, as the shadow of a conviction does not loom over them with deferred prosecution as it might with probation.

Deferred Prosecution vs Adjudication

Deferred adjudication and deferred prosecution may seem similar but differ fundamentally in the plea. With adjudication, the defendant may plead guilty or no contest, yet the court does not enter a conviction so long as the defendant completes certain requirements.

On the other hand, deferred prosecution typically avoids the entry of any plea and the defendant agrees to fulfill the conditions set out in the DPA. In both cases, the court and prosecution must agree to the arrangement, which often involves intense negotiations with prosecutors or the relevant fraud office if financial crimes are involved.

DPA vs Plea Agreement

Deferred prosecution agreements and plea agreements navigate the legal waters differently. While a plea agreement usually requires the defendant to plead guilty in exchange for reduced charges or sentencing, a deferred prosecution agreement does not necessarily require an admission of guilt. Instead, it offers the defendant a chance to avoid prosecution altogether.

If the defendant fulfills all terms of the DPA, such as engaging in community service or enacting corporate reforms, the charges are ultimately dismissed, and the defendant can avoid conviction.

Understanding the Alternatives to Deferred Prosecution

When facing criminal charges, understanding all available options is crucial. Alternatives to deferred prosecution include plea bargains, which often involve the defendant agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser charge or a reduced sentence.

For those looking to mitigate the impact of criminal charges, engaging in community resources that provide support, rehabilitation, and educational opportunities can be invaluable. These options serve as a lifeline for those who might otherwise be ensnared in the long-lasting consequences of a criminal record.

Compliance with terms – what happens if you “fail out”?

Adherence to the terms of a Deferred Prosecution is non-negotiable. If a defendant’s conduct does not comply with the conditions by, for example, committing other crimes, they risk their successful completion of the Deferred Prosecution.

Potential consequences include the prosecution reinstating the charges, sometimes leading to a guilty plea and criminal conviction. This breach can lead to the reopening of the case and a return to court, where the defendant may face the original charges and sentencing guidelines. To avoid such an outcome, it’s vital that the defendant fully understand their obligations and make a concerted effort to meet them, with the awareness that compliance is their pathway away from the brink of conviction and towards rehabilitation and restitution.

Criminal Defense Lawyer Rob Chesnutt serves Travis, Hays and Willimason Counties

Contact an Experienced Attorney

If you’ve been charged with a crime in Central Texas, you should speak to an attorney to explain your options. If you qualify for deferred prosecution, it may be a good option, but only an experienced criminal defense attorney can discuss this within the context of your specific case. ATX Legal offers no-cost consultations. Text us at 512-677-5003 or submit a contact form to speak with an attorney today.

505 West 12th Street, Suite 200 Austin Texas 78701

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