Defendants will commonly seek to avoid jail or prison time, even though the sentencing guidelines require them to be incarcerated. Often, prosecutors in Texas are willing to cut a deal wherein the defendant avoids incarceration by agreeing to forgo litigating at the trial or penalty phase of a case. In such a scenario, the following options may be available, depending on the specific circumstances of a case.
Probation: Instead of jail time, with conditions applicable to the situation. An example is paying restitution to the victim because probation may be the only way for the defendant to accomplish this. Other examples are stay-away orders from victims, no driving, curfew, electronic leg monitoring, anger management, and community service.
Reduced crime: Reducing the offense to an “attempted” level so the punishment will not be incarceration; negotiating to strike the deadly weapons findings to reduce the punishment.
DIVERT Court: If applicable; there are approximately eighty such courts across Texas. DIVERT, which stands forDallas Initiative for Diversion and Expedited Rehabilitation and Treatment, is a court that focuses on diverting individuals with minor drug offenses away from prison.
SAFPF: Request enrollment in the Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility (SAFPF) as a condition of probation. The SAFPF / In-Prison Therapeutic Community, or IPTC, provide services to qualified offenders identified as needing substance abuse treatment. Offenders are sentenced to a SAFPF by a judge as a condition of community supervision in lieu of prison/state jail.
With a current prison population exceeding 157,000 and operation costs of over $40 million per facility, prosecutors are under pressure to find alternatives to the prison system. As such, those convicted of certain crimes have greater ability to avoid prison or to lessen an otherwise lengthy sentence. Above are possible avenues that a defense lawyer could use to keep his client out of prison.
Conditional dismissal: A lawyer will negotiate that the case is dismissed on condition that the accused undergo treatment. Upon completion of the treatment and satisfactory fulfillment of the condition, the judge dismisses the case. This can be especially beneficial if the defendant has mental health issues. Conditions could be that the defendant remains medication compliant and regularly sees a mental health professional for a period of time before the case will be dismissed.
Reduced punishment: The offense will be classified as a felony but punished as a misdemeanor. Because it is a misdemeanor, the defendant will not be processed through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and would likely get out of prison sooner.
The Texas state budget regarding incarceration is a significant factor. Keep in mind that misdemeanor probation reporting and costs are less expensive than processing felony cases. As such, a defendant can likely reach an agreement about informal reporting only, such as seeing a mental health professional, instead of spending time in jail.
If you are accused of a crime, contact a lawyer who is both zealous and knowledgeable about the legal system. Contact the law firm of Christopher Abel, a Texas board certified defense attorney.
(image courtesy of Larry D. Moore)