Criminal Law

Criminal Pretrial Court Intervention Programs

Pretrial court intervention, also called pretrial diversion or deferred prosecution, is a court program used in many states. The program allows first-time offenders to keep an incident off of their record without having to win their case at trial. It gives a person accused of a crime, who has never been arrested before, a chance to avoid being branded with a felony conviction for the rest of his life.

Pretrial intervention programs vary but they usually have the similar basic features, including:

  • The person must not have a prior arrest record
  • The charge the person is facing must be a relatively minor one, such as petty theft or drug possession
  • The person is unlikely to offend again

A pretrial intervention program gives a generally good person who did something stupid a second chance. The program can also provide a second chance to someone who got in trouble over a drug addiction problem but can probably be helped with treatment.


After a person is accepted into the pretrial intervention program, he enters a plea of guilty to the charge. The judge withholds the order finding the person guilty for a certain period of time. The judge then places the defendant under certain restrictions similar to being on probation.

If the individual follows the terms and conditions of the pretrial intervention agreement, the charges are dismissed and the person is not convicted of the crime. This gives the individual a chance to start over with a clean record.

If the defendant violates the terms of the agreement, he is brought back to court for a sentencing hearing. Some of the ways a person can violate the agreement include:

  • Getting arrested again
  • Failing a drug test
  • Failing to complete a court-ordered treatment program

Lose Right to Trial

The defendant loses his right to go to trial after he enters a guilty plea. If the judge determines that the defendant failed to complete the program, the defendant will be convicted and sentenced for the crime. A defendant must take the program seriously or he will quickly be convicted without a trial.

Charges Dismissed after Completion of Program

If an individual successfully completes a program, the court will dismiss the charges. By doing the work necessary to complete the program, a defendant can avoid a trial and a conviction.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can I be considered for a pretrial¬†intervention program if I have been arrested before?
  • If I don't complete the pretrial intervention program, can I still have a trial?
  • How is the determination about whether a defendant is likely to commit another offense made?
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