Being charged with a crime in Gloucester County, New Jersey, can be a frightening prospect—but if you are eligible, you may be able to avoid a criminal conviction and have all references of the crime removed from your record. A provision in New Jersey law called pretrial intervention can cause your criminal charges to be permanently dismissed as long as you follow through with all the requirements. Pretrial intervention is not available for all cases, and not everyone is eligible. To determine whether you qualify, you should speak with an experienced Gloucester County criminal defense lawyer like Joseph D. Lento. He can provide guidance in helping determine whether your charges qualify for a pretrial intervention program.
What is Pretrial Intervention?
Pretrial intervention is a program that allows someone charged with a crime to enter into a supervision agreement with the judge and prosecutor that could result in the dismissal of existing criminal charges. New Jersey offers pretrial intervention to assist people in avoiding criminal records and improve efficiency so the court system can focus on more serious offenses. When implemented properly, pretrial intervention can benefit both the defendant as well as the victim of the case if one exists.
Only eligible candidates will be considered, and pretrial intervention must be approved both by the judge and the prosecutor on a case-by-case basis. Defendants who are considered low-risk and nonviolent are more likely to be accepted into a pretrial intervention agreement.
To participate in a pretrial intervention, you must fulfill certain prescribed requirements, which may include drug testing, completing community service, and paying any restitution owed. After you have completed the requirements, your case will be dismissed, and after six months, you can request to have your record expunged.
One caveat to consider: to be accepted into pretrial intervention, you have to plead guilty to the charges. Before you request or accept pretrial intervention, make sure you fully understand your rights.
Who Qualifies for Pretrial Intervention?
The legal structure for the state's pretrial intervention program is outlined in 2C:43-12 of the New Jersey Criminal Statutes. The law says you must meet the following criteria to be eligible for pretrial intervention:
- You must have no prior criminal convictions.
- The crime must be of a nonviolent nature (serious crimes that harm others are generally considered ineligible).
- You must be deemed low-risk for repeating the offense.
Even if you meet these criteria, the judge and prosecutor will still approve pretrial intervention on a case-by-case basis. Having an experienced New Jersey defense attorney in your corner can make a difference in whether you are approved.
How Does Pretrial Intervention Work in Gloucester County?
If you're charged with a crime in Gloucester County and wish to apply for pretrial intervention, you will work with the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office in Woodbury, NJ. The Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office makes the final decision about whether or not to grant a pretrial intervention. Pretrial intervention is typically available for those charged with third- and fourth-degree criminal offenses, while those who are charged with a first or second-degree criminal charge or a charge for drug distribution will require special permission to be admitted into the program.
If accepted into pretrial intervention, your program can take anywhere from one to three years in Gloucester County. Your original criminal charges will be dismissed if you complete all terms of your pretrial intervention.
What Other Rules Apply to Pretrial Intervention?
You should be aware of several other rules concerning pretrial intervention. These include the following:
- Only one pretrial intervention is allowed per lifetime. Any future charges won't be eligible.
- You are not considered eligible for pretrial intervention if your case involves allegations of domestic violence or misconduct toward a public official.
- The prosecutor must notify you in writing of their decision to accept or reject your application.
- You have the right to appeal an adverse decision acceptance to pretrial intervention. A superior court judge will hear the appeal and consider whether the prosecutor has abused their discretion by denying your application for pretrial intervention.
What Considerations Go into Determining Eligibility for Pretrial Intervention?
New Jersey law requires that prosecutors consider several factors when determining whether a case is eligible for pretrial intervention. Some of these factors include:
- The nature and intent of the alleged offense
- The facts and circumstances surrounding the incident
- The age of the offender
- Mental health consideration
- The victim's input
The decision to offer pretrial intervention is never taken lightly. Generally speaking, the less severe the crime, the more likely it is to qualify for pretrial intervention.
What Are the Conditions or Requirements for My Pretrial Intervention?
Although a judge may stipulate any condition as part of a pretrial intervention order, there are a few common expectations, which may include mandatory counseling, drug/alcohol testing, community service, and paying restitution to the victim(s) for any injuries or damage.
If accepted into pretrial intervention, you will likely be assigned to a probation officer who will supervise you through the program and to whom you will regularly report until the program is completed.
What Happens if I Don't Complete Pretrial Intervention Successfully?
If you fail to report to your probation officer regularly, fail a drug test, or otherwise fail to meet the requirements of the program, you may be removed from the program. In addition, your case will go back onto the regular court schedule to be prosecuted. You may start the application process from scratch, but you may not have a second chance to qualify. Do not enter into any pretrial intervention program unless you are willing and able to comply with the terms.
Why Hire an Attorney to Help with Pretrial Intervention?
You always have the right to defend yourself when charged with a crime—and this includes requesting a pretrial intervention. However, convincing a prosecutor to accept you into a pretrial intervention program is easier said than done, and anything you say to the prosecutor on your own behalf could be used against you. Because of what is at stake when facing criminal charges, you also never want to take a half-hearted approach to trying to get the necessary outcome. An experienced criminal defense attorney solely dedicated to your cause understands what the prosecutor is looking for and knows how to present your request for the best chance of acceptance. The attorney can also negotiate the best possible conditions for your pretrial intervention to ensure your success.
Get in Touch with the Lento Law Firm Today
If you are charged with a crime and wish to approach the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office for pretrial intervention, your best chance for success is to get the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. A good New Jersey defense lawyer can help you determine your eligibility and ensure you are in the best possible position to succeed. The Lento Law Firm has vast experience and knowledge in helping clients obtain pretrial interventions to clear their records. To learn why attorney Joseph D. Lento is the right choice to help you with your criminal case, call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.