Pretrial diversion in Texas: Why it’s important

You may have heard about the criminal case involving Texas State Representative Poncho Nevárez, who was caught last September dropping an envelope with two grams of cocaine at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The third-degree felony possession charges against him were eventually dismissed after he completed a pretrial diversion program — and Nevárez is now proudly celebrating his sobriety.

Why is this big news? Because pretrial diversion programs work. While Nevárez’s story may be more high-profile than others, he suffered from the same problems with addiction that lead many people off the straight-and-narrow path and into the courtroom. Putting people behind bars when they suffer from mental health problems and chemical dependency isn’t the best answer if you want them to continue being productive members of society.

Pretrial diversion programs often involve rehabilitation and counseling. It’s estimated that sending just 10% of offenders to rehab would save the criminal justice system $4.8 billion every year. Meanwhile, sending an addict or alcoholic to jail won’t give them the coping skills they need to avoid repeat legal problems in the future. Plus, they’ll be saddled with a criminal conviction that will haunt their steps, limit their employment prospects and add to the stressors that may have already contributed to their addiction.

Nevárez’s success story can be yours. If you’re a first-time offender who is charged with a low-level felony or a misdemeanor drug or alcohol charge, find out more about the possibility of a pretrial diversion program. While not right for every defendant, such programs can offer significant relief to many — and allow you to return to your life without the stain of a criminal conviction holding you back.