Understanding the differences between pretrial diversion vs. deferred adjudication in Texas is critical, especially if you’re facing first-time misdemeanor charges.

That’s because, if you know what pretrial diversion and deferred adjudication are and if you know how they differ, you will be better informed of your options for having your charges dismissed and potentially wiped from your record forever.

It’s important to remember, however, that there are a variety of qualifications and parameters that must be met for both pretrial diversion and deferred adjudication in Texas.

Let’s take a look at some of those qualifications and parameters.

What is pretrial diversion in Texas?

Pretrial diversion in Texas is basically an alternative to being convicted of a crime. However, this scenario doesn’t necessarily leave you “innocent” of a crime. In fact, with a pre-trial diversion, you do admit guilt to your charges — but instead of going to court, you go down a different route.

You might be wondering why someone would want to admit guilt, and the answer to that question is simple:

With pretrial diversion, the case can ultimately be dismissed and wiped from your record. On top of this, you also have the ability to skip court and the consequences that could come with it.

However, before any of this can happen, you have to meet all the qualifications for pretrial diversion. Here’s a general list of those qualifications:

  • The offense must be a first-time offense.
  • The offense must be a misdemeanor. (or available on select felonies)
  • You’ve never used pretrial diversion before.
  • The offense cannot involve gang activities, national security, foreign affairs, family violence, or sex.

If you do meet the qualifications, then you have to apply for pretrial diversion (with which an experienced Houston DWI lawyer can help you). This process can involve multiple essays regarding the situation that landed you in hot water, your day-to-day life, and future goals. It may also call for personal documents and an interview with a probation officer.

If your application is accepted, then you have to follow a pretrial diversion program, which usually includes a combination of drug testing, regular reporting, counseling, and community service.

Failing to follow these requirements lands you in hot water again, and this time, you will likely see your day in court — facing a charge that you previously admitted guilt to.

If you’re wondering, “Does pretrial diversion show up on a background check in Texas?” the answer is no. If you have successfully completed the pretrial diversion program, your case can be dismissed and your record is eligible for expungement in Texas. However, it’s important to remember that your record is not automatically clean after completing your program. You must go through the expungement process.

What is deferred adjudication in Texas and how does it differ from pretrial diversion?

Deferred adjudication is very similar to pretrial diversion in Texas. You are admitting guilt; you must meet certain qualifications; and you must adhere to a similar probationary period. In this case, however, you are seeking deferred adjudication — deferred prosecution  —  with the eventual goal that the judge will dismiss the charges. 

However, here are a few major differences that you need to be aware of:

  • You are pleading guilty to a judge in court. Unlike pretrial diversion, you do not have the luxury of avoiding court.
  • Does deferred adjudication show up on a background check in Texas? Yes, unless you apply for a non-disclosure order. Check out our article, “What does a background check show in Texas?” to understand more about deferred adjudication and background checks.
  • Deferred adjudication is more likely for a felony than pretrial diversion.

In other words, deferred adjudication gives individuals who weren’t able to avoid court and/or are charged with many felonies to avoid conviction. However, it’s important to keep in mind that, if you fail to meet the requirements of your probationary period, you may get slammed with even harsher penalties than if you had taken a plea bargain.

Making the choice: pretrial diversion vs. deferred adjudication, or neither?

Pretrial diversion and deferred adjudication may seem like best-case scenarios no matter what. But that’s simply not the case. Yes, you can avoid jail time and avoid the harsh consequences that come with it — but you are not avoiding harsh consequences altogether.

For starters, what if you plead guilty to a charge that you could have been found innocent of? It’s important to seek the counsel of a skilled lawyer who has experience dealing with cases like yours.

With deferred adjudication, you do have to be prepared for those charges to follow you around for quite some time. Investing in a lawyer who could help you be found innocent is likely cheaper than suffering the consequences of a stain on your record.

Another thing to consider is the possibility of you failing to follow all of the requirements set forth by either pretrial diversion or deferred adjudication. You originally admitted guilt in order to avoid court and/or jail time. If you are forced to go back to court for not following your program 100%, it could end very badly for you.

If you need help weighing the pros and cons of pretrial diversion and deferred adjudication, don’t hesitate to contact our team. Mark Thiessen of Thiessen Law Firm is Triple Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, DWI Defense Law by the National College for DWI Defense, and DWI Law by the DWI Defense Lawyers Association in Houston.

With over 100 not guilty verdicts and thousands of dismissals, we have the experience and skill you require to successfully navigate your case.

Give us a call today at 713-864-9000 or fill out our online contact form.

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Thiessen Law Firm

Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.