If you have been charged with a crime in Essex County, New Jersey, you could face consequences that extend beyond the possibility of fines, probation, and jail time. Having a criminal record can haunt you for many years, especially when it comes time to apply for a job, buy or rent a home, or apply for a professional license. However, there may be hope. If you are eligible, a pretrial intervention program (PTI) can help you avoid conviction and have all references to your alleged crime eliminated from your record. Pretrial intervention is a provision in New Jersey law that allows eligible defendants to fulfill certain obligations in return for having their criminal charges dismissed.
Not everyone qualifies for pretrial intervention, and not every eligible applicant is approved for PTI. Your best chance of success is by having a skilled criminal defense attorney handle your application. Joseph D. Lento is an experienced Essex County criminal defense lawyer who can help determine whether you are eligible for pretrial intervention. The following questions and answers will help you to learn more about this important New Jersey program.
What is Pretrial Intervention?
Pretrial intervention (PTI) is a program that allows certain people charged with a crime to enter into a supervised agreement with the judge and prosecutor to have the charges dropped once certain obligations are met. New Jersey is one of several states that has implemented pretrial intervention as a way to give nonviolent, first-time offenders a “second chance” to move forward without the stain of a criminal record—plus, it alleviates pressure on the criminal justice system so it can focus attention on more pressing cases.
If you're accepted into a PTI program, you'll be required to fulfill certain conditions while the program is in effect. These obligations may include if you are accepted into a PTI program. These may include random drug testing, community service, mandatory counseling or treatment, and payment of restitution. Once you have completed the PTI program and fulfilled all conditions, your case will be dismissed, and no conviction will appear on your record. You can also request the expungement of the arrest from your record six months after you have completed the program.
When you apply for pretrial intervention, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office and the presiding judge will review your case individually to decide if you are a good candidate for PTI. If you are a nonviolent offender who is deemed to be low-risk for repeat offenses, you are more likely to be accepted into the PTI program.
Pretrial Intervention in Essex County: How Does it Work?
If you are charged with a crime in Essex County, NJ, you can apply for a pretrial intervention by submitting an application to the Prosecutors Office at the Veterans Courthouse in Newark, NJ. The final decision about whether or not to accept you into a PTI agreement is made by the Prosecutor's Office. If accepted, your PTI program will last anywhere from one to three years, depending on your case and the terms imposed by the judge. You will be supervised by a probation officer whose job it is to verify that you fulfill all the terms of your PTI. Your original criminal charges will be dropped once you have fulfilled all of your obligations.
Who is Eligible for Pretrial Interventions?
The New Jersey Criminal Statute 2C:43-12 sets out the legal guidelines for the state's pretrial intervention program. To be eligible for pretrial intervention, you must meet the following criteria, according to New Jersey Courts.
- You must be over 18 years old at the time you are accused of the offense, unless you are a minor charged as an adult for the crime.
- You must be charged with a third-or fourth-degree indictable offense (felony level). Disorderly persons offenses, which are misdemeanor level offenses in NJ, are not eligible.
- You cannot have been through a pretrial intervention before.
- You must be deemed nonviolent by the prosecutor. PTI is less likely to be approved for offenses that involve violence.
- You must be deemed low-risk for repeat offenses. (PTI is designed to rehabilitate first-time offenders.)
Even if you meet these criteria, the judge and the prosecutor must approve you for pretrial intervention. Each case is evaluated on an individual basis. A New Jersey defense attorney can advise you on whether your case qualifies for PTI. This can increase your chances of getting your application approved.
Can I Still Be Accepted Into a PTI if I Don't Meet the Criteria Above?
Possibly, on a case-by-case basis. If you are charged with a crime with the presumption of jail time (i.e., first- or second-degree offense), you are less likely to be approved for PTI, and you'll have to obtain special permission from the prosecutor to be considered. Likewise, if this is not your first offense, you may still be considered for PTI with special permission from the prosecutor.
How Does the Essex County Prosecutor Determine Who Is Eligible for Pretrial Intervention?
When deciding whether a case is eligible for pretrial intervention, the office of the prosecutor must consider many factors. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- The nature of the offense itself
- The intent of the defendant to commit the offense
- Particular or unusual circumstances surrounding the incident
- How the victim feels about a pretrial intervention
- The age of the offender
- Mental health considerations
Are There Other Stipulations To Know About Pretrial Interventions (PTI)?
Yes. You should also be aware of the following important rules for pretrial interventions:
- The program can only be completed once per lifetime. You will be unable to apply for PTI for any further arrests or charges after you have completed the program.
- Applicants whose case involves domestic violence are typically not accepted into PTI, as are public officials who commit crimes that touch their related offices.
- The prosecutor's office must inform you in writing whether or not they accept your application.
- A decision to decline your case for pretrial intervention may be appealed. A superior court judge will hear your appeal and decide if the prosecutor used their discretion to disqualify you from the program.
What Are the Conditions for a Pretrial Intervention Program?
Every pretrial intervention will have different criteria that defendants must meet while the PTI is in effect. These conditions are established by the presiding judge, who basically has a free-range as to what conditions to impose. Most PTIs include several of the following conditions:
- Regular check-ins with your probation officer
- Mandatory counseling or treatment
- Random drug screenings
- Fulfilling an established number of hours of community service
- Paying restitution and fines
Can I Be Removed from Pretrial Intervention?
Yes. If you do not meet with your probation officer regularly, fail a drug screen, or fail to complete any other requirements, your PTI program could be terminated. If that happens, prosecution of your case will proceed as before, and while you have the freedom to reapply for PTI, your chances of re-acceptance are very slim. If you're having trouble meeting the requirements of your PTI before the deadline, talk to your probation officer and/or your defense attorney to discuss options before your PTI is terminated.
Why Hire an Attorney to Assist With Pretrial Intervention?
While you can apply for a pretrial intervention on your own behalf, your chances of being accepted are significantly higher if you have an attorney representing you. It can be difficult to convince a prosecutor you should be accepted into a PTA, and you might even end up saying something that is detrimental to your case. An experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney understands what the prosecutor is looking for and knows how to present your application in the most favorable way. Working with an attorney may also help you get more lenient requirements for the completion of the PTI, improving your chances of completing it successfully.
If you've been charged with a crime in Essex County, NJ, don't leave your future to fate. You owe it yourself to see if you qualify for pretrial intervention, especially if it's your first offense. A successful PTI can remove all blemishes from your criminal record and allow you to move on with your life without jail time. A New Jersey defense lawyer can help you avoid conviction and protect your reputation. Joseph D. Lento is an experienced attorney who has a proven track record of obtaining pretrial interventions for eligible defendants. For more information, call us at 888-535-3866.