North Texas Specialty Courts & other Specialty Courts: Veterans Court, First Responders Court, DWI courts, Drug Courts, Diversion Courts
For certain categories of people (Veterans, first responders, alcoholics) some charges may fall into a special category that affords special options that are not normally available to most citizens accused of a DWI. There are definite benefits to these courts for some people. For example, a DWI court may treat a probationer much different than on normal probation. This can be good and bad depending on the factors. There are definite reasons why a person should or should not go into a DWI court, as well as all the other specialty courts. Mimi will go over your case with you to help determine if a specialty court meets your needs.
The legislature has allotted funds for special courts for certain classifications of people. Due to the state funding, strict adherence to the program’s rules must be followed in terms of who qualifies for admission into these courts. We will go over these specialty courts with clients: what factors can influence their acceptance or rejection, as well as the requirements and reasons one may or may not choose to go into these specialty programs. For example, we have many Veterans who choose options that don’t involve Veterans Court, even if Veterans Court might be the better option in general. In other words, sometimes a specialty court might not suit a particular person’s needs. One should never consider any of these courts until it is established that the State can prove their case. Mimi Coffey conducts a full case evaluation first!
Types of Specialty Courts
There are some upsides to participating in one of the programs to make the program worthwhile, including a dismissal and sealing of the charge for some of these courts, not all. That said, each program has strict eligibility requirements and tends to be very selective. Just because a person might be eligible doesn’t mean the program will accept them. This is especially true depending on the results of a mental health or substance abuse evaluation. We help and guide clients through the whole process.
Here is one important point to remember: Not every county offers these programs.
As the name implies, only Veterans or current military members are eligible for this program. Generally, the program further limits eligibility to those who have a brain injury or mental disorder (e.g., PTSD) if it arose during military service and impacted the conduct at issue in the case. However, the program has the discretion to allow Veterans without those issues if participation in the program will achieve the objective of public safety through rehabilitation.
Each county will handle Vet’s Court in their own way. But, the main objective of the program is to achieve public safety. To that end, the program may last between 11 to 24 months depending on the underlying criminal charge. Each member is closely supervised and must report their progress in court. In most cases, upon successfully completing the program, the underlying criminal charge is dismissed and expunged. In other words, Vet’s Court is a “pretrial diversion” program.
*Please note, for Collin County cases for example, there is NO legal benefit. The case does NOT result in a dismissal. We will go over all the pros and cons with clients in making this important decision.
Similar to Vet’s Court, this program is limited to those with brain injury or mental disorder. Unlike Vet’s Court, this program is designed for the general public, though the programs themselves are mostly the same. The program can last between roughly 9 months to 2 years and requires extensive mental health and substance abuse supervision. Like Vet’s Court, upon successfully completing the program, the underlying conviction may be dismissed and possibly become eligible for expunction.
This is a very broad “program” because it splits off into various different courts. Some programs focus on controlled substances, others focus on first-time drug offenders (of varying degrees), and some focus squarely on alcohol abuse and DWIs. That said, the main purpose of the Drug Court programs is to place subjects in what is essentially court-supervised rehab. Subjects must provide clean urine (and in some cases hair or other form of) test throughout the program. The program length can vary depending on the County’s rules for their drug courts, and depending on the individual program. Some programs dismiss the underlying charge and some will allow eligibility for nondisclosure (but not expunction). If the underlying charge is a DWI, however, it is NOT eligible for nondisclosure under a Drug Court Program.
Felony Alcohol Intervention Program (FAIP)
One example, in Tarrant County, of a Drug Court program is FAIP. This Tarrant County DWI program typically deals with high-risk repeat DWI offenders, which means felony DWI offenses. A DWI becomes a felony when it is a person’s 3rd or more DWI. In other words, the first two DWIs are misdemeanors. Anything after that is a felony. There is also an additional “step” called habitual offenders, but that is beyond the scope of this post.
This program is basically an intense treatment program that lasts for 4 years. The primary benefit to this program is that participants avoid prison. The downside is that you will go through a structured program that includes a 6-month or 1-year “hard” suspension (meaning no driving whatsoever), intensive supervision and monitoring, and weekly compliance hearings. Mimi ALWAYS recommends that our clients have a full case evaluation before making a final decision on whether FAIP suits their needs.
Like many of the other programs above, First Responders Court serves as an alternative to a straight conviction or probation. The statute defines a “public safety employee” as a peace officer, firefighter, detention officer, county jailer, or emergency medical services employee of the state. This can include probation officers, nurses, and others depending on employment. After successful completion of the program, the court will dismiss the underlying charge. The statute does not mention an expunction or nondisclosure, but some Counties will also do one or the other for graduates of the program.
Other Specialty Courts
- Commercially Sexually Exploited Persons Court Program (“Prostitution Court“)
- Youthful Offenders Diversion
- First Offender Drug Program
- Domestic Violence Diversion
- Deferred Prosecution Program
*Know that this is partial listing. It is our job to know which courts or programs clients may benefit from. We discuss all this and more once we fully evaluate their case. Our mission is to get clients the best possible result.