Tarrant County First Responder Diversion Program Overview




Tarrant County First Responder Diversion Program Overview

Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other public safety officials often encounter traumatic events that can lead to mental health issues, sometimes resulting in legal troubles. To address this, Tarrant County offers a pre-trial diversion program specifically for these public safety employees. This program focuses on treatment and rehabilitation rather than punishment. 

Successful completion results in your case being dismissed and you would be eligible for an expunction. The program, officially known as the Tarrant County Public Safety Employees Treatment Court (PSETC), is commonly referred to as the Tarrant County First Responder Diversion Program.

If you are a first responder and have been accused of a crime, do not wait to call me for an evaluation of your case. I will walk through the extensive application process with you to ensure that you have presented everything thoroughly and accurately and will approve the submission of your application. 

Program Details

The program is similar to the Tarrant County Veteran’s Court and is presided over by the same judge. Both programs aim to provide mental health services to defendants in need due to their service-related duties.


First responders suffering from a brain injury, mental illness, or mental disorder, such as PTSD, incurred during their service, may be eligible. Additionally, those first responders likely to remain employed in that line of employment. 

Eligible roles include:

  • Peace Officers
  • Firefighters
  • Detention Officers
  • County Jailers
  • Emergency Medical Services Employees
  • Emergency Service Dispatchers

What is the criteria to be admitted into the Program?

  1. The defendant must be a current or former public safety employee with a qualifying mental health condition linked to their duties.
  2. The mental health condition must have influenced the criminal behavior in question, or there is a desire to remain or regain employment as a first responder when your criminal case is resolved. 
  3. The defendant’s background and circumstances must indicate that rehabilitation is a viable means to ensure public safety.
  4. The applicant must reside or work in Tarrant County.

Application Process

In order to be considered, your criminal defense attorney must approve the submission of your application. After your application is submitted, it is reviewed by the PSETC office to ensure eligibility and then is submitted to the District Attorney’s (DA’s) office for preliminary approval. 

Approved applicants are required to attend an orientation, followed by a mental health evaluation. Based on that evaluation, the DA’s office gives final approval. 

If admitted, what is required?

Participants must:

  • Plead guilty upon admission.
  • Abstain from criminal activity, alcohol, and non-prescribed substances.
  • Submit to random drug testing.
  • Comply with treatment and counseling requirements.
  • Take prescribed medications.
  • Attend all appointments and hearings.
  • Maintain contact with the program staff.
  • Agree to the release of protected information under Texas law.
  • Avoid contact with disreputable individuals.

Successful Completion and Consequences

If participants complete the program successfully, their charges are dismissed, and their records can be expunged once the statute of limitations has expired. Failure to complete the program results in prosecution and potential sentencing based on the original guilty plea.

Program Goals

The primary aim of the PSETC is to address the root causes of public safety employees’ legal issues by providing tailored mental health treatment, ultimately leading to better personal, professional, and financial outcomes for the participants. The program emphasizes individualized treatment plans, supervised monitoring, and regular compliance hearings to track progress.

Background and Success

Established by HB 3391 in 2018, Texas’ Public Safety Employees Treatment Court was the first of its kind in the United States. The law, codified in Chapter 129 of the Texas Government Code, enables public safety employees to participate in the program if their criminal behavior is linked to job-related mental health issues. The program has demonstrated significant success in reducing recidivism rates and improving participants’ overall well-being. 

Admittance into the first responder program is not guaranteed. You need a criminal lawyer who will help you prepare prior to submitting the application and work diligently to persuade the District Attorney’s office to accept you. If you have been accused of a crime and are a first responder, do not wait to call Fort Worth criminal lawyer Stephen Handy. 

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