Some first-time offenders in Tarrant County are getting a second chance.
According to Tarrant County officials, young offenders have been able to clear their criminal records of various offenses for decades by participating in a program known as the Deferred Prosecution Program.
Now, older residents who are first-time offenders have a similar opportunity through an expansion of that program known as the Deferred Prosecution Initiative, Tarrant County officials said.
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"One of the goals of the criminal justice system is rehabilitation," Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson said. "Sobriety is the beginning of that rehabilitation."
Amid the backlog of cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials have expanded the DPP, which is open to those between the ages of 17 and 24, to include first-time offenders age 25 and older who are willing to get sober under the DPI.
"We want to resolve these lower-level drug cases so we can focus our resources on violent crimes with victims that are increasing in this time of COVID," Wilson said.
The new initiative involves a six-month program administered by the Criminal District Attorney's Office.
Participants must have no criminal history or record of participating in any other diversion program, and they must stay free of crime and drugs.
Participants must apply for the program within 90 days of their case being filed, and they must be approved to participate.
Individuals accepted into the program will attend orientation, sign waivers, provide three drug hair follicle tests, pay a $300 program fee, and more.
According to Tarrant County officials, this is not a supervision program and there are no monthly check-ins, though some participants may be required to take an online drug and alcohol class.
Out-of-state residents, such as those cited for airport drug cases, are allowed to participate in this program.
If an offender passes the DPI program, their case will be dismissed and they will be eligible for their cases to be erased from their records.
Anyone who violates conditions of the program will be removed, and their case will move forward in the courts, officials said.
Officials said individuals eligible to participate in this program may face a variety of charges, including all misdemeanor and felony THC charges and a limited number of controlled substances, excluding heroin and fentanyl.
"Our job is to resolve these cases in the best way possible," Wilson said. "If we can get documented sobriety, then I am fine with this person's case being dismissed."