There are many differences between how state court systems handle first time offenders. For example, in Louisiana, they have what is know as “pre-trial diversion” which is available for qualified first time offenders with non-violent felony or misdemeanor charges. Assuming that you do not have a felony record, you could be eligible for pretrial diversion if you are arrested for relatively minor charges such as shoplifting, embezzlement, simple assault, theft, forgery, trespassing, burglary, and simple possession of marijuana. Participation in the program is voluntary, but if you qualify, it is usually in your best interest to participate rather than to go to court.
If the District Attorney decides that the offender is eligible to participate in the pre-trial diversion program, the offender will then enter a conditional no contest or guilty plea under the specified criminal code article in Louisiana known as an article 893 or 894 plea — depending on whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony. The plea will be held in abeyance while the offender fulfills certain obligations. The obligations usually include taking an educational class, paying a fine, and staying out of trouble for one year for a felony charge and six months for a misdemeanor charge. Depending on the probationary sentence, there might be other requirements which can include performing community service, drug or alcohol testing, and counseling for anger management or alcohol abuse. After the first time offender successfully fulfills these obligations, the District Attorney will dismiss the matter. This will allow the offender to state on employment applications and similar documents that he or she has never been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.
However it is important to note that while there will be no conviction on your record, you will still have the arrest on your record. It is necessary to take another step — hiring an attorney to file a motion to expunge your record of the arrest itself. Just because the District Attorney did not prosecute the matter and the matter was dismissed, does not mean that you do not have an arrest record. It is beneficial to have the full matter expunged so that any potential employer or landlord, etc. will not see anything on your record.
If you are not sure whether you are eligible for pre-trial diversion or have any questions about 893 and 894 pleas, you can call my law office at (337) 704-2615 for a free consultation.