CRIMINAL LAW,TEXAS

Source:  Harris County District Attorney’s Website
In order to help non-violent first-time offenders, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in cooperation with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and Houston Police Department, created a program called the First Chance Intervention Program.

Having a criminal conviction can have an adverse effect on your life. It can affect your ability to obtain employment, housing and even a car. Under the First Chance Intervention Program, an offender who commits a possession of marijuana Class B misdemeanor will be offered a chance to avoid being charged as long as they successfully complete the program. Otherwise, the penalty range for Class B misdemeanors is up to 180 days in jail and/or a possible fine not to exceed $2,000.

The First Chance Intervention Program gives citizens a chance to avoid a criminal conviction by completing eight hours of community service or completing an eight-hour class to avoid criminal charges. Harris County Pre-Trial Services will monitor participants and supervise the program.

The program recognizes the principle that first-time offenders who commit low-level, non-violent offenses are often self-correcting, without the need for more formal and costly criminal justice intervention. It also frees up law enforcement, jail, prosecution and court resources that would otherwise be expended in the arrest and prosecution of the offender.

Effective Date: October 6th, 2014

Eligibility

A person is considered a first offender and eligible to participate in the program if he or she:

  • Is detained or arrested* for possession of marijuana, 2 ounces or less
  • Possesses sufficient identifying information
  • Has no additional charges out of the instant detention/arrest (other than Class C tickets)
  • Has no outstanding warrants or holds (including Class C charges)
  • Has no criminal convictions as an adult (Class B offense or greater)
  • Has never received probation or deferred adjudication (Class B offense or greater)
  • Is not currently on bond, deferred adjudication or probation (Class B offense or greater)
  • Has not participated in this program or another pretrial intervention program

*Under this pilot program, offenders arrested by an agency other than the Houston Police Department or the Harris County Sheriff’s Office will be sent to jail and offered the First Chance Intervention Program in Court.

Program Requirements

An offender must:

  • Contact Pretrial Services within 3 business days of his/her arrest and schedule an intake appointment
  • Appear at Pretrial Services for an intake interview and a short assessment
  • Participate for 60 or 90 days*, during which time the offender must:
    (1) Not break the law
    (2) Pay a non-refundable $100 program fee (may be reduced or waived if indigent)
    (3) Complete either 8 hours of community service or an 8-hour cognitive class*
*Program length (60 or 90 days) and program requirement (community service or cognitive class) are determined at the intake interview
Source:  Harris County District Attorney’s Website.