Many of my clients are offered a choice: complete the Bell County pretrial diversion or go to trial. If you are familiar with shows like Law & Order, you might not realize that you have options for your DWI case. You might think you are just going to trial and that’s that.
If you meet certain requirements (having little to no criminal history, completing drug and alcohol education courses, etc.), you may qualify for Bell County’s pretrial diversion program, which (if successfully completed) would avoid a trial altogether. But how do you decide what path you should take?
Are You “Guilty” or “Innocent”?
Making the decision to go to trial or enter the pretrial diversion program may come down to whether or not you want to plea guilty. The pretrial diversion program requires you to admit your guilt in return for having the charges against you dropped. If your case goes to trial, however, the jury is required to presume your innocence. This means they must go into the trial assuming that you are innocent of all charges. They can only come back with a “guilty” verdict if the prosecution proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed the crime in question.
It’s important that you and your attorney discuss the likelihood that you’ll be acquitted. If there is a good chance you will be found guilty in a trial, s/he may urge you to enter the Bell County pretrial diversion program. If they think there is a chance you would fare better at trial (or if you can’t stomach the thought of admitting your guilt), trial might be the better option for you. Remember, however, you can never predict with absolute certainty what verdict the jury will come back with.
How Much Time Do You Have?
In Williamson County, the pretrial diversion program lasts for 6 months; the Bell County pretrial diversion lasts for a year. If you just want to get the entire incident behind you as soon as possible, you may decide to enter the program rather than wait a year or more for your trial date.
If, on the other hand, you would rather have your day in court and be acquitted, you may prefer having the extra time so you and your attorney can prepare your defense.
What Can You Afford?
It’s no secret that you will end up paying more if you choose to go to trial. Attorney fees (especially for a well-qualified attorney), filing fees, bail money…all of these charges can add up quickly during your DWI case. There are also fees associated with the pretrial diversion program, but they will be much less than the cost of paying a good lawyer to represent you in court.
What Does the Process Look Like?
Another thing to consider is how many hoops you are willing to jump through to turn your DWI case into a thing of the past. As we discussed before, pretrial diversion programs have a laundry list of things you must accomplish to be considered a “successful graduate of the program,” but preparing to go to trial will also involve pretrial hearings and meetings with your lawyer.
What Will Your Criminal Record Look Like?
It’s the entire reason you called an attorney in the first place: you want to have some control over what happens to you as a result of your TX DWI charge. So let’s think about your criminal record for a minute.
You already know that getting a job, apartment, or even a date can depend on the results of a criminal background check, so it’s worth considering what your DWI charge will look like to a potential employer, landlord, or love interest when deciding whether to finish the Bell County pretrial diversion or go to trial.
After successful completion of the pretrial diversion program, all charges against you will be dropped, so your criminal record will reflect a dismissal. If you go to trial, your record will show either an acquittal or a conviction. So your decision might be as simple as deciding whether you would rather have an acquittal on your record or a dismissal.
Expunging Your Record
There is no way to predict how that cute girl on Tinder will react to seeing “dropped charges.” Will she assume there was insufficient evidence against you and date you anyway? Will your prospective employer think you’re nothing but an irresponsible loser who opted to take a deal because he knew he would never get acquitted? Even if you have a valid explanation for every incident on your record, you don’t always have the opportunity to give these explanations. Whether you choose the Bell County pretrial diversion or go to trial, you should pursue an expunction of your record. Expunging your DWI charge will remove all charges from your criminal record, making them as if they never happened.
Bear in mind that only a qualified attorney who is aware of the specifics of your case can tell you whether you should go to trial or enter a pretrial diversion program. Make sure you do your research to select an attorney who is up-to-date on all the aspects of DWI case law. Not only have I completed hundreds of hours of training learning how to defend my clients, I worked as a police officer for more than 20 (?) years, so I am intimately familiar with all sides of DWI law. Above all else, my goal is to make sure that each one of my clients is aware of their rights and gets the representation they deserve.