Being charged with a crime within Cape May County, New Jersey, can have life-altering implications if you're convicted—including fines, probation, jail time, and a criminal record that could haunt you for years to come. However, if you qualify, you might be able to avoid a conviction and have any references to the crime removed from your record. Pretrial intervention, a provision in New Jersey law that allows criminal charges to be permanently dropped, is available if you meet the requirements. Pretrial intervention may not be available in all cases, and not everyone qualifies for it. Joseph D. Lento, a skilled Cape May County criminal defense attorney, can help you determine if you are eligible for a pretrial intervention program. Below are some helpful questions and answers to help you learn more about this important New Jersey program.
What is Pretrial Intervention?
Pretrial Intervention (PTI) is a program that allows those charged with a crime in New Jersey to enter into a supervised arrangement with the judge or prosecutor. When the terms of the arrangement are fulfilled, the criminal charges are dismissed and removed from the defendant's record. New Jersey has established this program to help people avoid criminal records while allowing the court system to focus its efforts on more serious offenses.
The Cape May County Prosecutor's Office and the presiding judge will consider eligible candidates on a case-by-case basis. They tend to favor defendants who are low-risk and nonviolent.
If you enter a PTI program, you'll be required that you fulfill certain obligations, which may include drug testing, community service, and payment of any restitution. Your case will be dismissed once you've completed all requirements. Six months after completing the program, you can request that your record be expunged.
Since you must plead guilty to the charges as a condition for this program, it's important to understand your rights before you decide to enter pretrial intervention. Always consult with an experienced defense attorney to discuss whether pretrial intervention is a good option for you.
How Does Pretrial Intervention Work Cape May County?
If you have been charged with a crime in Cape May County, NJ, you'll apply for pretrial intervention to the County Prosecutor's Office at the Cape May County Courthouse. The Prosecutor's Office makes the final decision on whether to accept you into a PTI agreement. Typically, PTI is available to those charged with lesser offenses (third and fourth-degree). If you're charged with a first- or second-degree crime or a drug distribution crime, you'll have to have special permission to enter a pretrial intervention program.
Most pretrial interventions take between 1-3 years to complete, depending on the circumstances of your case and any terms the judge decides to impose. Once you fulfill all the obligations, your original criminal charges will be dropped.
Who Is Eligible for Pretrial Intervention?
New Jersey's pretrial intervention program is detailed in 2C:43-12 of the New Jersey Criminal Statutes. According to the law, anyone wishing to enter into a PTI must meet the following criteria:
- No prior criminal convictions (i.e., first-time offender).
- The charge must be for a nonviolent crime.
- Low probability of repeat offenses.
For those who are eligible, the judge and prosecutor approve PTIs on a case-by-case basis. An experienced New Jersey defense lawyer can help improve your chances of being approved.
How Does the Cape May County Prosecutor Determine Who Is Accepted for Pretrial Intervention?
The Prosecutor's office must take numerous factors into account when deciding whether a case qualifies for pretrial intervention. These factors include:
- The nature of the offense itself
- The intent of the defendant in committing the offense
- Specific or unique circumstances surrounding the incident
- The offender's age
- Mental health considerations
- How the victim feels about the PTI
What Else Do I Need to Know about Pretrial Interventions?
There are a few other important rules regarding pretrial interventions that you should be aware of, including the following:
- You can only go through the program once in your lifetime. Once you complete your program, any future arrests and charges will not be eligible for PTI.
- Applicants whose case involves domestic violence or misconduct towards a public official are not considered eligible.
- You must be notified in writing by the prosecutor as to whether they accept or reject your application.
- You may appeal a decision not to accept your case for pretrial intervention. This appeal will be heard by a superior court judge whose job it is to determine whether the prosecutor abused their discretion in disqualifying you from the program.
What Are the Conditions of a Pretrial Intervention?
Each pretrial intervention may have a different set of conditions that the defendant must fulfill. The judge has plenty of latitude in setting these conditions. That said, most PTIs include requirements such as drug screenings, mandatory counseling, completing a certain amount of community service, and making restitution to any victims for damage or injuries. You will also likely be assigned to a probation officer who will supervise your progress to make sure you're fulfilling the requirements.
Is It Possible to Be Expelled from Pretrial Intervention?
Yes. You may be expelled from the program if you fail to meet with your probation officer on a regular basis, fail a drug screening, or fail to comply with other requirements of the program. If your PTI is rescinded, your case will be prosecuted as usual. You can start the application process over, with the final decision for reconsideration being up to the judge, but the prosecutor is far less likely to give you another chance.
Why Hire an Attorney to Help with Pretrial Intervention? Can't I Request One on My Own?
You can certainly request a pretrial intervention on your own behalf, but your chances of acceptance are considerably greater if you have an attorney helping you. It is not easy to convince a prosecutor that you should be admitted to a PTA, and you might end up saying something that ends up working against you. Because of what is at stake when facing criminal charges, you also never want to take a half-hearted approach to trying to get the necessary outcome. A skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney solely dedicated to your cause will know what the prosecutor wants and how to present your request in order to get the most favorable outcome. You may also get more lenient requirements for completing the PTI by working with an attorney.
If you've been charged with a crime in Cape May County—especially if it's your first time facing charges—you owe it to yourself to see if you are eligible for a PTI. An experienced New Jersey defense attorney can give you the best possible chance to succeed so you can avoid conviction, clearing your record and your good name. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have an excellent track record in procuring pretrial interventions for eligible clients. To learn more, call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.