Williamson county has a very active Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) Program for first offenders, which results in the charges being dismissed and even expungeable when the program has been successfully completed.
The theory behind the PTI program is essentially that misdemeanor first offenders are the least likely to re-offend, so the prosecutors are willing to cut them some slack. Another way to look at the program is that, rather than burdening the defendant, prosecutor, judge and the probation/jail system with another needless and costly probationer/inmate, low-level, offenders who appear to be unlikely to reoffend can be adequately punished by having to complete similar tasks to what would be required in a formal probation setting without having to be on a formally monitored supervision. PTI is a form of pretrial diversion.
The real benefits to the program are that it only lasts for six months, that the case is dismissed, and that the defendant can have his arrest record expunged. Expungement means that the formal records relating to the fact of the person’s arrest are removed and erased so that no one in the future will be able to see them.
In order to enter the PTI Program an applicant must complete and submit a sworn application and a clean drug test to the County Attorney. While the forms are available for pro-se defendants, it is certainly advisable to have an attorney assist in the preparation and filing of the application. This is both to ensure that the application is filled out correctly and to ensure that the applicant has adequately accepted responsibility for the offense without making admissions that might damage his chances of acceptance. It is also advisable because an experienced attorney who knows the particular prosecutor handling the case may have some insight as to what types of information will be more appealing to that prosecutor.
The prosecutor will review the application for the Pre-Trial Intervention Program and will contact the attorney about tentative approval into or rejection from the program. If the answer is tentative approval into the PTI Program, an assessment will then be scheduled with Sharon Guzman which will cost $100.00. The assessment is to determine whether the person is a low risk to re-offend, and if so, what type of counseling classes a person needs to do while in the PTI to be successful going forward. If the application is rejected, the attorney can request reconsideration and can even visit with a higher up prosecutor to pitch the client’s application.
As long as Ms. Guzman agrees that PTI is appropriate, the County Attorney will then set up a contract signing date to formally start the diversion period. The requirements for PTI participants typically include community service hours, educational classes or counseling relating to the offense, and an agreement to abstain from further illegal behavior. These requirements are very similar to what would have been required if the case had resulted in a formal probation. PTI is an “informal” probation in that the participant reports by e-mail rather than in person, and completes his requirements on his own, as opposed to a “formal” probation in which the probationer is told each month what to accomplish by a probation officer at an in-person meeting.
Following successful completion of the Pre-Trial Intervention Program, the case is dismissed. Except for DWI cases, the arrest record can be immediately expunged.
Folks arrested for first-time misdemeanor offenses in Williamson County, Texas should almost always consider applying to the Pre-Trial Intervention Program. The up front costs and in-program inconvenience are small prices to pay for the certainty of an expungeable dismissal.