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First time offender programs are being used more and more in Texas to give people a second chance.
Across Texas, laws are continuing to grow regarding first offender programs to give low-level, non-violent offenders a better chance at getting their lives back on track. At the state and local level, legislators are looking at how a criminal conviction can prevent people from gainful employment and securing housing. The punishment for their crime extends far beyond the sentence handed down from a judge. The criminal defense attorneys at Scott M. Brown & Associates are passionate about the progress Texas is making on these fronts. We provide experienced legal counsel regarding the criminal justice system and make sure our clients are aware of alternate sentencing opportunities and first offender programs.
What are First Offender Programs in Texas?
At the state level, Texas has implemented some truly progressive legislation regarding first offender programs. Most recently, the “Second Chance” bill was signed by Governor Greg Abbott that will allow low-level, first-time offenders of non-violent and non-sexual crimes to seal their records from public view. This means first time DWI/DUI offenders will not have to report this to potential employers helping them secure a job that will allow them to make a living and find a decent place to live. This new law will be changing lives for the better across Texas.
Additionally, Texas has the “First Time Offender Felony Charge Act.” This law pertains to first-time felony drug offenders that have no prior convictions in Texas. It allows the offender to avoid the maximum sentence by complying with alternative sentencing guidelines ordered by the court. By participating in things like counseling and drug rehabilitation programs, a person facing his or her first felony drug charge can avoid the state maximum penalties which is 10 to 99 years in prison and fines totaling upwards of $100,000.
On a more local level, Texas counties like Harris County, are putting their own first-time offender programs into action. Harris County has instituted a First Chance Intervention Program. Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputies are required to offer first time drug offenders that are found to be in possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana a chance to participate in the program. The chance to participate is offered at the pre-arrest stage. The program requires the participants to be monitored for either 60 or 90 days depending on the findings of the Harris County Pretrial Services Department intake interview. The interview is meant to evaluate the individual offender and their specific circumstances. The Department is also responsible for monitoring the participant during the 60 or 90-day time period. During that time, the participant cannot break the law in any way and must complete 8 hours of community service or cognitive class. The program costs $100, but this may be waived if the participant proves indigent status. Upon the program completion, the participant’s case will be dismissed. If the participant fails to comply with all program requirements, a warrant for their arrest will be issued.
These programs are not only giving the participants a second chance at a better life, they are working to address the issue of overcrowding in jails and freeing up law enforcement resources so that they can fight more serious crime problems.
If you are facing criminal charges, contact us and know all of your options.
At Scott M. Brown & Associates, we provide sound criminal defense counsel to meet the individual needs of every client. Facing any criminal charge is serious. Know your rights and know your options. Contact us today. We proudly serve Angleton, Pearland, Houston, and Webster.