If you are facing a criminal charge in Mercer County, New Jersey, then you are likely wondering if it is possible to guarantee that you can keep a criminal conviction off of your record. With a pre-trial intervention, you may be able to do just that. A successful pre-trial intervention can result in a case being dismissed forever. Not all cases qualify for pre-trial intervention. If you have questions about the possibility of getting a pre-trial intervention in Mercer County, then it is important that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can properly advise you of your chances to be admitted into a pre-trial intervention program.
What is Pre-Trial Intervention?
Pre-trial intervention is a program that allows individuals to enter into a type of pre-trial probation that can result in the criminal charges being dismissed altogether. Individuals have to be approved for pre-trial intervention by the prosecutor's office. Pre-trial intervention allows the court to still maintain some level of control and supervision over offenders that are considered low risk and allows them to earn their way towards a dismissal of their pending criminal charges. Pre-trial intervention can include substance abuse treatment and testing, along with community service and other requirements approved by the court. It is important to note that a defendant is not required to plead guilty to be accepted into a pre-trial intervention program but may be required to do so in specific circumstances. If you are seeking pre-trial intervention for a first- or second-degree crime or for a crime of domestic violence, then you will be required to plead guilty in order to be admitted.
Who Qualifies for Pre-Trial Intervention?
New Jersey law sets the limitations and guidelines for the state's pre-trial intervention system. Pursuant to 2C:43-12 of the New Jersey Criminal Statutes, the policy of the state of New Jersey regarding pre-trial intervention is that it is ordinarily limited to those who have not been convicted of any crime before. If the offense charged is nonviolent in nature and the person charged is determined to be someone who is unlikely to re-offend, then that person can qualify for pre-trial intervention. Each case is determined individually, but there are common types of cases that are deserving of pre-trial intervention treatment. Serious charges that involve significant injury or harm are generally not eligible for pre-trial intervention treatment. Pre-trial intervention exists to not only help people avoid convictions but also to help criminal courts focus their time and resources on more serious cases that require the court's attention. If used properly, pre-trial intervention can help all parties involved, especially the defendant.
What Factors Are Considered in Determining Pre-Trial Intervention?
Under New Jersey law, prosecutors are required to consider several factors when determining whether an applicant is eligible for pre-trial intervention. Some of the factors that must be examined by prosecutors include:
- The nature of the case
- The facts of the case
- The age of the defendant
- The victim's position regarding prosecution
- Any present mental health or substance abuse issues
These factors, along with other important considerations, must be examined before a prosecutor decides whether to award pre-trial intervention in a given case. The less serious a case is, the more likely a defendant will be granted admission into a pre-trial intervention program.
What Are Some Other Pre-Trial Intervention Rules?
Under New Jersey law, you are only allowed one pre-trial intervention during your lifetime. There is also an automatic presumption against granting pre-trial intervention for cases involving domestic violence, and cases involving public officials or employees charged with criminal misconduct in their positions. The decision to grant or deny someone pre-trial intervention must be in writing and disclosed to the applicant. An applicant who wishes to appeal the decision denying pre-trial intervention may do so through the appropriate channels under the New Jersey Rules of Court. Any appeal of a pre-trial intervention denial will be heard by a superior court judge who will decide if the prosecutor abused their discretion by rejecting pre-trial intervention for the applicant. Abuse of discretion involves making a decision that is unfair or not in line with the law nor the customary practices of the prosecutor's office.
How Does Pre-Trial Intervention Work in Mercer County?
In Mercer County, the decision of whether to grant an individual pre-trial intervention lies with the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office. This office offers pre-trial intervention to those with minor criminal histories, along with first-time offenders who are charged with third-degree or fourth-degree criminal offenses under New Jersey law. Anyone who is seeking pre-trial intervention that has a more serious charge will require specific permission from the prosecutor to be admitted. This typically requires a showing to demonstrate why someone charged with a first- or second-degree criminal offense deserves a treatment typically reserved for others. Pre-trial intervention in Mercer County can last anywhere from 1-3 years. If you complete your pre-trial intervention successfully, then your original criminal charges are dismissed, and no criminal conviction will enter your criminal record. All pre-trial intervention agreements must be in writing and signed by all of the parties involved.
What Are Some Requirements of Pre-Trial Intervention?
A judge can order a variety of requirements to complete and follow during a pre-trial intervention. Some of the most common requirements include:
- Substance abuse evaluations
- Substance abuse testing
- Paying restitution
- Community service
This is a partial list of requirements that a judge may order. Each case will have its unique set of facts and circumstances. The court can include whatever they feel is necessary to rehabilitate an individual and compensate a victim for any injury, property damage, or property loss. You may also be required to make scheduled court appearances and/or report to a probation agent. A probation agent will supervise and oversee your case if you are granted pre-trial intervention. If there are any issues completing your requirements, then you can be required to appear before a judge to explain why. If you fail to complete any of the requirements set by the judge or fail a drug test, then you are subject to removal from the program altogether. If you are removed from pre-trial intervention, then you will likely never be given another opportunity.
What Happens If I Don't Complete Pre-Trial Intervention Successfully?
If you are granted pre-trial intervention and do not complete it successfully, then your original charges are typically restored to the court's trial calendar. All of the time, effort, and money spent on your pre-trial intervention at that point will amount to nothing, as you will essentially be starting over with your case. You may also be facing new criminal charges that will be added to the court's calendar as well. The desirable part of a pre-trial intervention is the ability to have some level of control over the outcome of your case. If you complete everything that you are asked to do, then your case will be dismissed. If you don't, then you can be facing a whole set of new challenges. If you end up at this point, then all is not lost. You will still have all of your regular options to defend your case, including taking your case to a trial and winning it that way. If your case does not look like a good case for a trial, then a pre-trial intervention might be your best chance to avoid a conviction.
Do You Need an Attorney to Get Pre-Trial Intervention?
You always have the option of representing yourself in a criminal case. Representing yourself may sound noble, but it is lined with potential issues. Any settlement discussions that you directly have with a prosecutor can be potentially be used against you in court in prosecuting you. This is because any statements that you voluntarily make about your case may actually hurt your ability to get a pre-trial intervention. It is important to know what to say and what to refrain from saying during a pre-trial intervention negotiation. The experience of your attorney can be helpful in many ways, including sorting out the details of your pre-trial intervention, so you are best set up for success.
Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
If you have questions about the possibility of pre-trial intervention, then it is important that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. It is important to know the specifics of what the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office is looking for when determining an individual's eligibility and qualifications to be awarded pre-trial intervention. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm have the experience and knowledge that you need to help put you in the best position for success when defending a criminal case. To learn why attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are the right choice to help you get through your criminal case, call us toll-free at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.