Deferred Prosecution Program success depends on our ability to engage, educate, enhance intrinsic motivate and activate defendants by targeting interventions appropriately.
Ensure all defendants leave DPP more competent to function effectively in the community by adequately assessing defendants’ risk and needs and targeting interventions appropriately
Develop a higher degree of accountability for the offense behaviors, as well as their responsibility to repair the harm done, increase victim empathy and community engagement
Improve connection and collaboration with defendants and community resources to provide training and educational opportunities as well as access to healthcare and economic opportunities.
The Deferred Prosecution Program (DPP), formally known as ‘the First Offenders Program’, is run by the Dane County District Attorney's Office. Eligible defendants can avoid adjudication (a criminal conviction) and sentencing by satisfying the requirements of a deferred prosecution agreement contract with the D.A.’s Office. The contract may require the defendant to participate in one or more of the following assessments or programs:
Additionally, participants also agree to take other appropriate measures to assure they do not repeat criminal behavior and follow the conditions:
Successful completion of a Pre-charge Deferred Prosecution Contract Agreement results in no charges being filed. In successful completion of Post-charge Contract Agreements, the District Attorney’s Office agrees to dismiss or amend the charges. If an offender fails to fulfill the terms of the Contract Agreement, a Pre-charge case will be returned to the District Attorney’s Office for further action. With Post-charge failures, the case is returned to the assigned court branch. This can result in the entry of adjudication and disposition, or it can result in a re-referral to DPP.
“You have helped me grow into the man I am today and cannot be more thankful.” – DPP Participant
DPP has and will continue to accept persons with prior convictions. Here are the general parameters:
In determining specific contract terms with cooperative offenders, DPP staff aim to create achievable, realistic goals to improve public safety and allow offenders to make positive changes in their lives. The nature and seriousness of the offense, defendant risks and needs, as well as availability of community resources, are all factors considered when determining the length of the contract. Terms of the Contracts range in length from 9 to 36 months. The length of the contract is determined after the initial intake by the assigned counselor based on the above risk factors of each individual.
There is no cost to participate in the Deferred Prosecution Program. However, treatment, counseling, and educational program expenses are the defendant’s responsibility. Some programs adjust rates to income levels and may accept payment in installments as long as the defendant has employment or other reliable income.
A deferred prosecution contract may be terminated if the defendant fails to comply with contract requirements. Most Common examples of this is include: when a participant is terminated from treatment or other required programming before successful completion, arrested or charged with new illegal behavior proven to a level of probability, otherwise determined to be no longer appropriate due to increased risk factors, or providing false information or denying guilt for the original offense.
A defendant who is placed on probation has been found guilty by a court of law. Probation involves formal supervision by an agent of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections following a criminal conviction. Probation therefore imposes numerous rules and requirements throughout the probationary sentence. This differs greatly from the information about Deferred Prosecution listed in the paragraph below. Non-compliance with probation rules and conditions may result in revocation of probation and imposition of a sentence to jail or prison.
A defendant in the deferred prosecution program is not sentenced. In post-charge cases, a plea is routinely entered. A defendant enters the program voluntarily. A defendant may elect to continue to proceed through the court process rather than participate in deferred prosecution when the opportunity is given to them. Supervision of defendants is provided by DPP counselors who monitor defendants’ progress in meeting contract requirements during scheduled “check-ins.”
In post-charge cases, a defendant’s successful completion of the DPP program will be returned to court for a dismissal in most cases. Record of the charge will remain in the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access automated program (CCAP) for a period of two years, but the dismissal will be noted and there will be no formal adjudication or conviction.
Victims who suffer personal property and monetary loss are compensated by the offender through restitution or community service, and both victims and the public have the benefit of the offender’s acknowledgment of guilt in a court of law.
Courts, attorneys, and police benefit from the reduction in resources and time spent in court for pretrial conferences, hearings, and trials.
Taxpayers and the public generally benefit by lessened stress upon law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders, courts, and correctional agencies. In addition, a successful outcome lessens the chance of repeat criminal conduct.
Defendants benefit from the opportunity to avoid acquiring a criminal conviction that may affect employment, housing, personal freedom, reputation, self-esteem, relationships, as well as the right to vote and future firearm privileges.
Where programs of this nature do not exist, defendants receive little or no supervision and they have less access to resources and services the following arrest. National studies reveal the cost of handling cases through pretrial intervention programs is less than half the cost of handling similar cases in the traditional manner of prosecution.
To reference the referral process, please see our DPP Flow Chart.
Trisha Telfer, Senior Counselor for DPP-CAI
Child Abuse Specialist
The Dane County District Attorney’s Office continues to respect all individuals' rights to participate in diversion programming regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, and age. As the larger community explores non-violent parenting initiatives and the cultural context of corporal punishment, the District Attorney’s Office has launched a new diversion program designed to protect all children and strengthen families. Due to a disproportionate number of minorities referred to the District Attorney’s Office, it is expected that this initiative will impact short-term and long-term racial disparities in the criminal justice system. This initiative will provide timely and culturally responsive programming to all eligible defendants filling a current service gap. Additionally, the District Attorney’s Office will support professional education opportunities for staff that teach culturally responsive service delivery.
Cheri Wotnoske, BS, CSAC, ICS
Substance Abuse Counselor for DPP-O
It is the fundamental goal of the Opioid Diversion Program to connect individuals to the best wraparound services that focuses on mental and physical health, to support each participant in achieving sobriety and recovery from substance use. The Deferred Prosecution Opioid Diversion Program (DPP-O), as all of DPP, is committed to the protection and safety of the public, while motivating each participant to change destructive behaviors that led to their original offense(s). DPP-O fully utilizes a wide spectrum of community resources to facilitate the completion of participant contracts that are uniquely tailored to each individual.
To reference the referral process, please see our DPP-O Flow Chart.
Many of the DPP protocols listed above have been adjusted during the Covid-19 pandemic. The adjustments have been in the best interest of all participants healing and recovery, while additionally balancing the need for safety for all parties. All participants have been educated on these changes and expectations during the transition. DPP continues to accept new referrals and admissions during Covid-19, and has been able to maintain full operations of all services, including face-to-face contact via internet platforms.