Are There Alternative Punishments For Crimes Committed In Texas?
Yes. We have many different options. Now, a lot of those options obviously have to have the prosecutor’s understanding and consent in some courts. Remember, each county runs its courts differently, be it a prostitution court, a drug court, or a veteran’s court. The eligibility is not set statewide; it’s set by each county and is based on whether that county feels it fit to administer that program.
For instance, we have a mental health docket, which is designed to bring medical providers or mental health providers to the courthouse so they can interact with people who are accused of crimes because of some difficulties in their lives. As an example, you would see homeless people who have a mental illness and who are continuously charged with criminal trespassing because they’re on the storefront. They can go to the local convenience store, the 7-Eleven, the Costco, and the lawyer, and they can get arrested for criminal trespassing because they’ve been warned. These are the kinds of cases specialty courts deal with.
Now, in our system, we rarely deal with house arrest. Probation is where you’re sentenced to some type of confinement and they suspend the sentence. Deferred adjudication is a little bit different in that you’ve never been found guilty; that’s very important for work, licenses, and programs. No one ever wants to be convicted because it has a wide range of effects; you can even lose your ability to vote. So it’s very important that there are those programs.
Diversion programs are based on individual counties. Bell County and the adjacent counties have diversion programs where you are really monitored by a probation officer or by the prosecutor’s office for compliance. If you do well, they never file charges. You sign a contract with them that states that you are going to do X, Y, and Z, and in return for that, you never go to court.
Community service is mandatory in Texas, particularly for criminal cases, unless there is a good reason why not. These reasons vary, but generally it’s a case-by-case thing. Really, everything is possible, except for the house arrest. Everything else, though? Absolutely. There is a whole bunch of alternatives.
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