The repercussions of a felony-level criminal conviction can last well beyond the immediate penalties of fines and jail time—it can haunt your public record for years to come and possibly for life. However, if you're facing criminal charges in Cumberland County, NJ, you may be eligible for pretrial intervention (PTI), a New Jersey program that enables criminal charges to be permanently dropped from your record if you comply with all requirements. Pretrial intervention is not available in all cases, and not everyone is eligible. Joseph D. Lento, a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney, can help you determine if you are eligible for a PTI program, and if so, facilitate the application process on your behalf.
What is Pretrial Intervention?
Pretrial Intervention is a program that allows those charged with a crime in New Jersey to enter into a supervision arrangement with the judge or prosecutor. When the program is completed, the criminal charges in question are dismissed, so the defendant avoids having a conviction on their record. The State of New Jersey has implemented this program both to help people avoid criminal records and to improve the efficiency of the state's criminal court system.
Pretrial intervention requires that you meet certain requirements while the PTI is in effect. These may include regular drug testing, community service, and payment of any restitution. Your case will be dismissed once you've completed all requirements. After six months, you can also ask to have your arrest expunged from your record, leaving no evidence that you were ever charged with the crime.
Only eligible candidates will be considered for PTI, and even then, applications are approved by the prosecutor and the judge on a case-by-case basis. Low-risk, nonviolent defendants are the ones most likely to be accepted into the program; others may still be accepted if they can provide a compelling case to the prosecutor to consider them.
Who Qualifies for Pretrial Intervention?
New Jersey Criminal Statute 2C.43-12 outlines the legal guidelines for the state's pretrial interventions program. According to New Jersey Courts, you must meet the following criteria to qualify for pretrial interventions.
- You must have been over age 18 at the time of the alleged offense—or been charged as an adult for the crime.
- You must be facing an indictable (felony-level) offense. (Disorderly persons offenses—which are misdemeanor-level offenses in NJ—are not eligible.)
- You must not have gone through a pretrial intervention previously.
- The prosecutor must deem you to be a nonviolent offender. (Offenses involving violence are less likely to be approved for PTI.)
- The prosecutor must deem you to be low-risk for repeat offenses.
Additionally, PTI programs are designed to help first-time offenders or those who are charged with third- and fourth-degree indictable offenses. If you are accused of a first- or second-degree offense where there is a presumption of jail time—or if you have prior arrests—you will need special permission from the prosecutor to apply for a PTI program.
Even if you meet the criteria, both the judge and prosecutor must still approve you for pretrial intervention. This is done on a case-by-case basis. An experienced New Jersey defense lawyer can give you advice on whether your case is eligible for PTI and can improve the chances of your application being approved.
How Do I Apply for Pretrial Intervention in Cumberland County?
If you're facing criminal charges in Cumberland County, you will submit your PTI application to the Criminal Division Manager at the Gloucester County Justice Complex in Woodbury, NJ. Your application will then be considered by the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office in Bridgeton. Pretrial intervention is usually available for people charged with third- or fourth-degree indictable (i.e., felony-level) offenses. Those charged with first- or second-degree criminal charges or a charge of drug distribution will need special permission to enter the program.
If you're accepted into a PTI program, the program itself will take between 1-3 years to complete. If you fulfill all the requirements of your PTI program during that time, your original criminal charges will be dropped.
What Else Do I Need To Know About Pretrial Interventions?
There are a few other stipulations that may affect whether you're accepted into a pretrial intervention. These include the following:
- One pretrial intervention per lifetime is permitted. If you face future arrests, those charges will not be eligible for PTI.
- If your case involves domestic violence, or if you are/were a public official, you will need special permission from the prosecutor to apply for PTI.
- The prosecutor must notify you in writing whether your application has been accepted or rejected.
- You have the right to appeal a rejected PTI application. The appeal will be considered by a superior court judge who will decide if the prosecutor has abused his discretion in denying your request for pretrial interventions.
What Factors Are Considered When Determining Whether To Accept Me for Pretrial Intervention?
New Jersey law requires that the prosecution take many factors into account when deciding whether a case qualifies for pretrial intervention. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- The nature and intent of the offense
- The specific facts and circumstances surrounding this incident (e.g., the level of violence involved, whether you were provoked, etc.)
- Your age
- Your mental health
- The feedback of the victim, if there was a victim
What Are the Conditions or Requirements of My Pretrial Intervention?
A judge can make any condition part of a pretrial intervention order. However, there are certain conditions that are commonly included in PTI. These include mandatory counseling, drug/alcohol screening, community service, and payment of restitution to victims for any damage or injuries.
During your pretrial intervention, you will be supervised by a PTI probation officer who monitors your progress as to whether you are fulfilling the terms of your PTI agreement. You'll report to this officer regularly until you complete the program.
What Happens to Me if Pretrial Intervention Is Not Completed Successfully?
You may be removed from a PTI program if you fail to report to your probation officer as required, fail a drug screening, or fail to comply with other requirements of the program. Your case will be re-entered on the regular court calendar to be prosecuted. Although you can start the application process completely from scratch, your chances of being re-accepted into the program are slim at this point. If you fail to meet the terms of your PTI but are close to fulfilling them by the expiration of the program, an experienced NJ defense attorney may be able to work with the prosecutor's office to keep you in the program until you have fulfilled your obligations.
Why Hire an Attorney To Help With My Pretrial Intervention Application?
When you are charged with a crime, you always have the right to act as your own defender, including submitting your own request for approval for a PTI program. However, it may not be easy to convince a prosecutor that you should be admitted to the program, and since the prosecutor is your adversary in a criminal case, anything you say could still end up being used as evidence against you. A skilled criminal defense attorney will understand what the prosecutor wants and how to present your request in order to get the most favorable outcome. Your attorney can negotiate the best terms for your pretrial intervention to help ensure successful completion.
Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer is the best way to ensure your success if you have been charged with a crime in Cumberland County, New Jersey. Joseph D. Lento is an experienced New Jersey defense attorney who understands the pretrial intervention rules and knows how to put you in the best possible position for success. To learn more about how you can get your criminal charges dismissed through pretrial intervention, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or email us today.