Have you been arrested and charged with a crime in Somerset County, NJ? If so, there is much about your future that may feel uncertain. Not only can being accused of a crime affect your family, your friendships, and even your job, but if you're convicted, you'll have a criminal record that can haunt you for many years—long after you've repaid your debt to society.
The good news is that New Jersey has certain provisions in place where, if you qualify, you may be able to have your charges dismissed, avoid jail time, and even avoid having a criminal record. NJ's pretrial intervention (PTI) program allows you to have your charges dismissed in return for meeting certain established obligations. Not everyone will be approved for a PTI program, and each case is evaluated individually—but having an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney can improve your chances for acceptance into this program. Joseph D. Lento is a Somerset County, criminal defense lawyer who can advise you as to your eligibility for PTI and help you work through the application process for a successful outcome.
What is Pretrial Intervention?
Pretrial intervention (PTI) is a program that allows people charged with a crime in New Jersey to enter into a supervised agreement with the judge/prosecutor. Once the terms of the agreement are met, the criminal charges against the defendant are dropped, and the defendant moves forward with a clean slate. Not all eligible candidates will be accepted for PTI; each case is reviewed on its own merit by the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office and the presiding judge. Although there are exceptions, most applicants approved for PTI are nonviolent offenders who are deemed to be low-risk.
If accepted into a PTI program, you'll be assigned a certain number of requirements while the program is in effect (typically 1-3 years). These requirements may include performing community service, mandatory counseling, random drug tests, etc. On completion of the program, your case will be dismissed, and you will avoid having a conviction on your record. Six months after completion of the PTI, you can even request to have the arrest removed from your record.
Who Is Eligible for Pretrial Interventions?
The New Jersey Courts have provided written guidelines about PTI eligibility. You may be eligible if:
- You were at least 18 years old when the crime occurred (or you are being tried as an adult).
- You are being charged with a third- or fourth-degree indictable offense. (Misdemeanor-level disorderly offenses are not eligible for PTI, and first- and second-degree offenses require special permission.).
- 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 as low-risk for repeated offenses.
Bear in mind that acceptance into a pretrial intervention program is not guaranteed even if you meet the eligibility requirements. The Somerset County Prosecutor's office will evaluate your case and make an independent determination whether to accept your application.
Can Exceptions Be Made for the Above Criteria?
Yes, in some cases, but only by special permission from the prosecutor. The law says crimes that have a “presumption of jail time” are typically not eligible for PTI (namely, first- and second-degree offenses. Likewise, those having prior convictions are usually not considered, nor are those who are public officials or those charged with domestic violence. However, in certain cases, you may request special consideration from the Somerset County prosecutor if you can make a compelling argument. This is where a seasoned New Jersey criminal defense lawyer can help you. Note that if you have already been through a PTI program, you won't be eligible for another one. The rule is “one PTI per lifetime.”
How Will I Know if I Am Accepted or Denied for PTI?
The prosecutor's office must notify you in writing in either case—whether your request has been approved or denied. If approved, you will be notified about what steps to take next and what conditions have been imposed for your PTI.
Can I appeal a decision to deny me pretrial intervention?
Yes. If you believe your PTI application was handled unfairly and that you are truly eligible, you can appeal the decision. A superior court judge will then review the application to determine whether the prosecutor exceeded his/her discretionary rights in deciding whether you were eligible.
If I'm Approved for a PTI Program, What Will I Have To Do?
Judges have a wide range of latitude for determining the conditions for a PTI program, and the judge and prosecutor will attempt to tailor the program to your needs with the goal of rehabilitation and prevention of repeated crimes. Most PTI programs include one or more of the following requirements:
- Periodic drug or alcohol testing
- Community service
- Mandatory counseling and/or treatment
- Payment of fees and/or fines
- Making restitution to any victims of the crime
- Avoiding further arrests
During your pretrial intervention period, you will also meet regularly with an assigned probation officer who will monitor your progress and make sure you're keeping up with the PTI requirements.
What if I Don't Meet the Obligations of My PTI?
Having your charges dismissed is directly linked to fulfilling all of the obligations of your pretrial intervention. If you fail to meet all the requirements, the prosecutor has the right to rescind your PTI and begin prosecuting your case again. If that happens, your PTI is unlikely to be reinstated. For example, your PTI could be rescinded if you:
- Fail a random drug test
- Fail to meet regularly with your probation officer
- Fail to complete your community service hours by the end of your PTI period
- Fail to pay required restitution
- Get arrested again during your PTI period
If you have concerns that you won't be able to meet your obligations (for example, if work hours hinder you from completing community service), talk to your probation officer and your attorney before your PTI expires to explore alternatives for completing your requirements.
How Do I Apply for a PTI Program in Somerset County?
To apply for pretrial intervention, you need to submit a completed application, along with fees and any appropriate documentation, to:
Somerset County Courthouse
20 No. Bridge St.
P.O. Box 3000
Somerville, NJ 08876
ATTN: Meghann Lipovetskiy, Criminal Division Manager
Phone: 908-750-8100 ext. 13367
From there, the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office will review your application and your case to determine whether you are a good candidate for PTI.
How Can an Attorney Help Me With Pretrial Intervention?
Being accepted into a PTI program is challenging, even if you are eligible. Attempting to convince a prosecutor to accept your application can be difficult, and as a defendant, anything you say or do could still be used as evidence against you in your case. An experienced New Jersey defense attorney understands the eligibility requirements of PTI and knows what the prosecutor is looking for in a candidate. A good attorney may also be able to negotiate the most favorable conditions for PTI so it does not overburden you. In short, you have a better chance of getting accepted for pretrial intervention with an attorney than without one.
As a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer for many years, Joseph D. Lento has an excellent track record of helping clients get approval for pretrial intervention in Somerset County and throughout New Jersey. For more information, call us at 888-535-3686.