You could be facing serious consequences if you are convicted of a crime in Hunterdon County, NJ. Aside from jail time and fines, a criminal record can be a problem for you for many years, especially when it comes to applying for jobs, seeking to be professionally licensed, or even buying or renting a home. However, it may be possible to avoid these consequences through a pretrial intervention program (PTI). This provision in New Jersey law helps eligible defendants to start fresh while avoiding the generation of a criminal record. Qualifying and getting approved for a PTI is not an easy matter, however, hiring a skilled NJ defense attorney can greatly improve your chances for success. Joseph D. Lento, a Hunterdon County criminal defense attorney, can help you determine if you are eligible for pretrial intervention.
Understanding Pretrial Intervention in New Jersey
Pretrial intervention (PTI) is a program that allows people accused of a crime to enter into a supervised arrangement with the prosecutor in order to have their charges dropped after they fulfill certain conditions. New Jersey is among several states that have implemented this type of program to improve efficiency in the criminal justice system. It gives nonviolent first-time offenders a second chance to move forward without the taint of a criminal history. It also eases the burden of minor cases on the court system so it can concentrate on other pressing cases.
If you request a pretrial intervention and are approved, you will be supervised by a PTI probation officer for the time period of the PTI (usually 1-3 years). You will need to meet certain requirements during this time, which may include mandatory counseling, random drug testing, community service, and payment of restitution. After you complete the PTI program, your case is dismissed. No conviction will appear on your criminal record. Six months after you have completed your PTI program, you can also request that the arrest be expunged from your record.
Who Qualifies for Pretrial Intervention?
According to guidelines laid out by the New Jersey Courts, you may be eligible for a PTI program if you:
- Were at least 18 years of age when the crime was committed (or are being tried as an adult).
- Are charged with a third- or fourth-degree indictable offense must be indicted (felony level). Misdemeanor-level disorderly persons offenses aren't eligible for PTI.
- Have no prior criminal convictions.
- Have not completed a PTI program in the past.
- Are not a public official accused of an offense that touches your office.
- Are deemed to be a nonviolent offender.
- Are deemed likely not to become a repeat offender.
Even for those who meet the above criteria, both the judge and the Hunterdon County prosecutor will still review each application on a case-by-case basis, and there is no guarantee of approval. Having an experienced New Jersey defense lawyer can improve your chances of having your application approved.
Is It Possible To Be Accepted Into a PTI Even if I Do Not Meet the Criteria?
Yes, in some cases, it's possible. If, for example, you have a prior criminal history, or if you are charged with a first- or second-degree offense (which has the presumption of jail time), you are not generally considered eligible for PTI. However, you may still be considered for pretrial intervention if you present a compelling case with the prosecutor to consider your application.
Other Considerations with Pretrial Interventions
When applying for a PTI program, keep the following in mind:
- You may only complete one PTI program in your lifetime. If you're arrested or charged again in the future, you cannot reapply for pretrial intervention.
- PTI is not usually open to applicants whose cases involve domestic violence.
- The prosecutor must inform you in writing whether they accept or deny your application.
- If denied PTI, you may appeal the decision. A superior court judge will review the case to determine whether the prosecutor used his discretion inappropriately to disqualify you from the program.
How Does the Prosecutor Decide Whom To Accept Into a PTI Program?
The office of the prosecutor must take into account many factors when deciding whether a case qualifies for pretrial intervention. These factors include but are not limited to:
- The nature of the offense (e.g., violent, nonviolent, impulsive, planned)
- Unusual or exceptional circumstances may be associated with the incident
- The offender's age
- The offender's mental health
- The victim's opinion on PTI (if there was a victim)
Can I Be Removed From Pretrial Intervention Once Accepted?
Yes. Your PTI program may be ended if you fail to meet with your probation officer, fail a drug screening, get arrested again, fail to complete your community service, or fail to meet other requirements. If this happens, the prosecution of your case will continue as before, and you'll be back to square one.
How Do I Apply for a Pretrial Intervention in Hunterdon County?
To request consideration for pretrial intervention, fill out a PTI application with appropriate fees and documentation and submit it to:
Somerset County Courthouse
20 No. Bridge St.
P.O. Box 3000
Somerville, NJ 08876
ATTN: Meghann Lipovetskiy, Criminal Division Manager
Phone: 908-750-8100 ext. 13367
Once your application is received, the decision to approve or deny your application will be made by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office in Flemington, NJ.
Why Should You Hire an Attorney for Pretrial Intervention?
Although you can request a pretrial intervention yourself, the chances of your case being accepted by the court are much higher when you have an attorney to represent you. It can be hard to convince a prosecutor that you should be admitted into a PTI, and because the prosecutor is still technically your legal adversary, it's easy to say something that could actually be used against you in court. An experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer will be familiar with the requirements of the prosecutor and can help you present your case in the best possible way. An attorney can help you obtain more lenient requirements to complete the PTI, increasing your chances of it being completed successfully.
If you're facing criminal charges in Hunterdon County, you don't have to leave your future to fate. If you qualify and are approved for a pretrial intervention program, you can have the charges dropped and move forward with a clean slate. Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience helping qualified defendants navigate the process of pretrial intervention. Call us at 888-535-3866 to learn more about how we can help.