Being charged with a crime in Passaic County in New Jersey is obviously no laughing matter, but often potential consequences go far beyond what may be considered at first glance. If convicted, you could of course be facing fines, jail time, and probation, but it is often a criminal record that will create complications in your life 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 is a New Jersey provision that will cause your criminal charges to be dropped once you comply with a specified set of requirements. Joseph D. Lento, a Passaic County criminal defense attorney, can help you determine if you are eligible for this program. Read on to learn more about pretrial intervention programs in Passaic County, NJ, and how you might qualify.
Pretrial Intervention Explained
Pretrial intervention (PTI) is a program that allows those charged with a crime in New Jersey to enter into a supervised arrangement with the county prosecutor's office and the presiding judge to complete certain requirements in return for having the charges dismissed. New Jersey has established this program mainly to give first-time offenders an opportunity to get a clean slate and avoid the revolving door of the criminal justice system. It also takes pressure off the court system itself by removing lesser offenses from the dockets so the courts can focus on more pressing cases.
The state has set up certain eligibility requirements for people to apply for PTI programs, but each application is reviewed and approved by the judge and prosecutor on a case-by-case basis. Defendants who are considered nonviolent and low-risk are most likely to be approved for these programs.
When approved for a PTI program, you will be advised of the conditions of your agreement, which will remain in effect between 1-3 years. At the end of the agreement term, if you have complied with all the conditions, your charges will be dropped, and there will be no conviction on your record. After six months, you may also request to have your arrest record expunged.
What Will I Be Required To Do in My Pretrial Intervention Program?
Every PTI program will have different criteria; your program will be tailored to your needs by the judge and prosecutor with the goal of rehabilitation and helping you avoid future arrests. That said, most PTI programs include some combination of the following requirements:
- Community service
- Mandatory counseling or treatment
- Random drug and/or alcohol screenings
- Paying restitution to any victims of your crime
- Avoiding further activities that could lead to an arrest
During the term of your PTI, you'll meet regularly with a PTI probation officer who will monitor your progress. Failing to show up for assigned meetings with your probation officer could result in having your PTI canceled.
Who Is Eligible for Pretrial Intervention?
The New Jersey Criminal Statute 2C:43-12 sets out the legal criteria that prosecutors must follow to determine who is eligible for PTI. According to information provided by the New Jersey Courts, you may be eligible if you meet the following conditions:
- You were at least 18 years old when the crime occurred (or you are being tried as an adult).
- You are charged with an indictable offense (felony-level). PTI is not available for misdemeanor-level disorderly person offenses.
- You have not been convicted of any criminal offenses in the past.
- You have not participated in a PTI program before.
- You are deemed to be a nonviolent offender.
- You are deemed to be low risk for repeat offenses.
Even if you meet the above criteria, the Hunterdon County prosecutor will still examine your case individually and either approve or deny your application. Having an experienced New Jersey defense attorney can increase your chances of getting your application approved.
Are There Exceptions to the Above Criteria?
Yes, in certain cases. Generally speaking, the following are not considered eligible for PTI:
- Those who are charged with first- or second-degree offenses (i.e., charges that come with a presumption of prison time)
- Charges that arise from domestic violence
- Public officials, especially if their crimes are associated with their office
- Those who have a prior criminal record.
That being said, people who fall into these categories still have the option of submitting a special request and explanation to the prosecutor to be considered for PTI—and on occasion, these applications are accepted. If you need to submit a special request for consideration, your best bet is to have an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney assist with your application.
How Do Prosecutors Decide Who Is Approved for PTI?
Prosecutors must consider many factors when deciding whether an applicant is a good candidate for pretrial intervention. These factors may include:
- The individual circumstances of the alleged crime
- Your level of intent in committing the crime
- Whether violence was involved, and to what extent
- Your age
- Your mental health (e.g., whether mandatory treatment would help you)
- The victim's input (i.e., the victim of your crime may be allowed to “weigh in” on whether you should be considered for PTI)
- Whether you are likely to face future arrests
What Happens if I Don't Complete All the Conditions and Requirements of My PTI Program?
You must complete all conditions of your PTI within the allotted time to have your charges dismissed. If you fail to meet these obligations, your PTI may be rescinded, at which time the prosecutor will move forward you're your case as before. You may also be removed from the program if you fail to appear to your probation officer on a regular basis, fail a drug screening, or get arrested. If you are approaching the end of your PTI and you have been unable to fulfill the requirements (e.g., complete your community service or pay required fines), talk to your probation officer and your defense attorney to discuss options for modifying the terms of your agreement.
How Do I Apply for a PTI Program in Passaic County?
To request consideration for pretrial intervention, you will submit a completed application along with fees and any appropriate documentation to:
Passaic County Courthouse
77 Hamilton St.
Paterson, NJ 07505
ATTN: John J. Harrison, Criminal Division Manager
Phone: 973-653-2910 ext. 24295
Once your application is received, the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office will review your case to determine whether you are eligible for PTI and make a decision whether to accept you into the program.
Why Do I Need an Attorney To Help Me Apply for PTI?
You can certainly apply for pretrial intervention on your own behalf, but it is not advisable to do so—any more than it is advisable to act as your own defense in court. It is not easy to convince a prosecutor to accept you into a PTI program, and until you are accepted and your case prospectively dismissed, the prosecutor still views you as a defendant. That means anything you say or do on your own behalf could end up being used as evidence at trial. Hiring an attorney to navigate the PTI application process is a much safer option. A good attorney will understand what the prosecutor wants and how to present your request in order to get the most favorable outcome.
Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
Facing criminal charges in Passaic County can wreak havoc on your life, but there may be ways to keep it from affecting your future. An experienced New Jersey defense attorney can help you determine whether you are eligible and put you in the best position possible to succeed. The Lento Law Firm has vast experience in helping clients enter PTI programs. Call us at 888-535-3866 or email us to learn more about attorney Joseph D. Lento and how he can help you with your criminal case.