A drug conviction can negatively impact all aspects of your life and leave a permanent mark on your criminal record. If you’re a first-time drug offender, though, you might be able to avoid the consequences associated with a drug conviction and get a second chance.
Here in Tarrant County, we have a number of diversion programs that focus on rehabilitating offenders instead of having them go through the typical criminal justice system process. There are specialty programs for felony DWI offenders, veteran offenders, youthful offenders, and domestic violence offenders.
In addition to these programs and others, our county also has a First Offender Drug Program (FODP). Let’s look at this program in depth to determine, as a first-time offender of a drug crime, not only if you are eligible, but also whether it’s the right program for you.
The FODP is a minimally supervised diversion program intended for nonviolent “low risk/low needs first-time drug offenders” who are willing to self-correct by identifying and remedying their own mistake.
The program has a number of goals, including:
- Enhancing public safety;
- Reducing crime;
- Holding offenders accountable for their actions;
- Increasing sobriety among drug offenders;
- Decreasing community costs; and
- Reducing the number of cases in our congested court system.
What Are the FODP Eligibility Requirements?
If you want to be considered for the FODP, there are a few eligibility requirements you will have to meet.
The first is the type of offense you are being charged with. Only certain drug offenses are eligible for the FODP and those offenses are:
- Possession of Controlled Substance, under 1 gram
- Possession of Controlled Substance, 1 – 4 grams
- Possession of Controlled Substance, under 2 ounces
- Possession of Marijuana, under 2 ounces
- Possession of Marijuana, 2 – 4 ounces
- Drug-Free Zone, Controlled Substance, under 28 grams
- Drug-Free Zone, Marijuana, 2 – 4 ounces
- Forging or Altering Prescription
- Possession of Dangerous Drug
- Diversion of a Controlled Substance
- Attempt of any of the offenses listed above
You also can’t have a conviction, “have current or past community supervision or deferred adjudication, nor currently have any pending case for offenses other than Class C misdemeanors.”
In ordered to be accepted into the program, you will need to submit an application within 90 days of your case filing, which will go to the Criminal District Attorney’s Office for approval. The application will contain your personal information as well as an explanation of why you want to participate in the program.
Additionally, you will have to provide proof of your education – high school diploma or proof that you are currently enrolled in high school, a GED program, or college – when you submit your application.
What Is the Structure of the FODP?
If you are accepted into the FODP, you will have to enter a guilty plea for the offense you are being charged with. The judge will then postpone sentencing until you have completed the diversion program.
The program has two minimal supervision tracks depending on whether you are being charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
Misdemeanor program. The 90-day misdemeanor program fee is $350, which covers the cost of all classes and testing. You will be required to take a short-term drug education or life skills class. You will also be subjected to two random urinalysis drug tests per month.
Felony program. The 180-day felony program fee is $550, which covers the cost of all classes and testing. You will be required to take a short-term drug education or life skills test. You will also be subjected to two random urinalysis drug tests and two hair tests per month.
If you successfully complete the program, you will be able to withdraw your original guilty plea and the DA will dismiss the case. If the DA dismisses your case, your record will be eligible for expunction from your criminal record.
If you do not successfully complete the program, your case will move on to the sentencing phase based upon your original guilty plea.
Any violation of the program conditions or failure to meet all of the requirements will result in your termination from the program and your case will move on to formal sentencing.
Is the FODP Right for Me?
A drug conviction can put a blemish on your criminal record, which could then affect numerous aspects of your life. Don’t let that happen! If you are being charged with a drug offense for the first time, find out if the Tarrant County First Offender Drug Program is for you by reaching out to an experienced Ft. Worth drug crimes attorney today.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.