Facing criminal charges in Ocean County can leave you filled with anxiety and uncertainty about the future. A conviction could not only result in fines, probation, and even jail time, but your criminal record could affect your life for years to come. But if you are eligible, you may be able to avoid a criminal conviction and have your record expunged. Under New Jersey law, entering a pretrial intervention (PTI) can result in your criminal charges being permanently dropped if you fulfill all the requirements. Pretrial intervention is not available in every case and is not open to everyone. Joseph D. Lento is an experienced Ocean County criminal defense attorney who can help you determine whether your case qualifies for a PTI program. If it does, he can also represent your interests through the process of getting approved for a PTI.
What Is Pretrial Intervention and How Does it Work?
Pretrial intervention is a program that allows a person charged with a crime to enter a supervised agreement with the judge and prosecutor to fulfill a prescribed set of requirements. Once the program is completed, and the requirements are met, the criminal charges are dismissed. New Jersey offers pretrial intervention not only to help people avoid criminal records but also to free up resources so the courts can focus on more serious crimes.
PTIs must be approved by the presiding judge and prosecutor on a case-by-case basis, and only candidates who meet the eligibility criteria will usually be considered.
While the PTI program is in place, you will be required to meet certain requirements, which may include community service, paying restitution to the victim(s) (if any), and submitting to periodic drug testing. Once the program is completed, your case is dismissed, and six months later, you can request that your criminal record be expunged.
You must plead guilty to the charge in order to be allowed to participate in a pretrial intervention, so be sure you understand your rights fully before entering into a PTI agreement.
Who Qualifies for Pretrial Intervention?
New Jersey's pretrial intervention program is detailed in 2C:43-12 of the New Jersey Criminal Statutes. To be considered for a PTI, you:
- Cannot have any prior criminal convictions;
- Must be deemed a nonviolent offender; and
- Must be considered to be at low risk of repeating the crime.
In addition, to qualify for PTI, your case must not involve domestic violence or an offense against a public official.
Even if your case meets all the criteria for acceptance, the judge and prosecutor still make the final call on whether you are accepted into a PTI program. Having an experienced New Jersey defense attorney in your corner can greatly improve your chances for approval.
The prosecutor will notify you in writing as to whether your PTI request has been approved or denied. If you are not accepted for PTI, you have the right to appeal the decision to the New Jersey Superior Court, where a judge will review the case and make sure the prosecutor's office did not abuse its discretion in making its decision.
In New Jersey, defendants are only allowed one pretrial intervention per lifetime. If you are charged with crimes in the future, they will not be eligible.
How Does Pretrial Intervention Work in Ocean County?
Requests for pretrial intervention in Ocean County are handled by the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office in Toms River, NJ, and this office makes the final decision on approval of PTIs. Generally speaking, only lesser crimes (third- and fourth-degree offenses) are considered for PTI, but first-and second-degree offenses may be approved with special permission, as well as certain drug distribution crimes. Most PTIs in Ocean County take between 1-3 years to complete, after which your criminal charges will be dropped, and your case dismissed.
What Are Other Factors Considered with Pretrial Intervention?
New Jersey prosecutors look at many aspects when deciding whether a case is admissible for pretrial intervention. These factors include:
- The nature and intent of the offense
- The facts and the circumstances surrounding the incident
- The age of the offender
- Mental health considerations
- If there was a victim, how the victim feels about the PTI
What am I Required to Do as Part of My Pretrial Intervention?
Pretrial intervention is a conditional agreement, and you must meet the stated conditions for the PTI to remain in effect. The judge can impose whatever conditions he/she may deem appropriate in the PTI orders, but most PTI agreements require the defendant to do some or all of the following:
- Undergo drug and/or alcohol testing
- Receive counseling
- Complete a certain number of hours of community service
- Pay restitution to any victims to cover damage, loss, and injury
During the term of the PTI, you will also be assigned to a probation officer who will monitor your progress and to whom you will regularly report until the program is completed.
Can My Pretrial Intervention Be Rescinded?
Yes. If you fail to meet the terms of the PTI agreement or fail to report to the probation officer as agreed, you could be removed from the program. If this happens, your case will be re-scheduled for prosecution in court, and you'll be back to square one. Most PTI participants who are removed from the program do not get a second chance, so be sure you can meet all the conditions of your pretrial agreement before entering the program.
Why Hire an Attorney for Pretrial Intervention Assistance?
If you are accused of a crime, your right to represent yourself is always protected, and you can request a pretrial intervention on your own. But convincing a prosecutor to accept you into a PTI can be complicated, and any statements you make to the prosecutor could work 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. Hiring an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney solely dedicated to your cause is the best way to avoid costly mistakes in your application process—preferably someone who already knows how the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office works and how to position your case for the best chance of acceptance.
Find Out Whether You Are Eligible for Pretrial Intervention
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have many years of proven experience with criminal defense cases in Ocean County, and he has helped many defendants through the process of pretrial intervention. Don't miss an opportunity to have your charges dismissed and your criminal record expunged. To find out whether you are eligible for a PTI, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.