Attorney General Opinion: Brown Co. Pretrial Diversion Program Not Authorized

Editor's Note: To view the entire opinion Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued on the Brown County Attorney Office's former Pretrial Diversion program, follow THIS LINK

BROWN COUNTY, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued his opinion on the Brown County Attorney Office's former Pretrial Diversion program, arguing the operation was not in full compliance with state law. 

County Auditor Jennifer Robinson wrote Ken Paxton a letter in June of 2016 asking for an opinion on the legality of the Pretrial Trial Diversion program overseen by County Attorney Shane Britton.

Britton responded with a letter of his own, and in that letter, he argued that the Pretrial Diversion Program, which was based on the practice of defendants giving the county attorney's office donations in lieu of prosecution, was in compliance with the law outlined in 45.125 of Texas Government Code which states:

Texas Government Code 45.125 The county attorney of Brown County or the Commissioners Court of Brown County may accept gifts or grants from any individual, partnership, corporation, trust, foundation, association, or governmental entity for the purpose of financing or assisting the operation of the office of county attorney in Brown County.  The county attorney shall account for and report to the county auditor all gifts and grants accepted under this section.

Paxton's official opinion argues that the donation program is not addressed in that section of state law because "a monetary payment in exchange for a promise to dismiss criminal charges may not constitute an exchange of consideration that is not consistent with the ordinary meanings of either 'gift' or 'grant'". 

Paxton further states that, "no statute authorizes a criminal court to order a defendant to pay a gift or grant under 45.125 of the Government Code". 

Paxton cites a section of Texas Government Code that does address pretrial diversion programs. Section 76.011 says County offices may collect funds not to exceed $500 that will be used for the sole purpose of reimbursing county expenses related to a defendant's participation in a pretrial intervention program. 

Paxton also makes it clear that he believes the county commissioners have ultimate control over all gifts or grants received through the County Attorney's Office, and Paxton also argues that the money from this fund cannot be placed into the hot check fund, which is used to supplement the salaries of the office employees. 

KTAB and KRBC are speaking to Brown County Officials to figure out what repercussions could follow this opinion issued by Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Stick with BigCountryHomepage for any updates on this developing story.

To find out more about the Pretrial Diversion program, including it's history and allegations of missing money, read this article on BigCountryHomepage.com

 


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