Facing criminal charges in Warren County, NJ, is a situation no one wants to be in of course. If convicted, you could be facing jail time, fines, and/or probation—not to mention a criminal record that can follow you for years. Fortunately, New Jersey offers a program called pretrial intervention (PTI) that enables eligible defendants to avoid conviction and clear their records. If you qualify for pretrial intervention and fulfill the requirements, your charges can be dismissed, and you can start again with a clean slate.
Not everyone is eligible for PTI programs, and not all eligible applicants get accepted. However, with the help of an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney, your chances for acceptance go up considerably. Joseph D. Lento has many years of proven experience helping defendants in Warren County and elsewhere to qualify for pretrial intervention.
Overview of Pretrial Intervention
Pretrial intervention (PTI) was established in New Jersey primarily as a way to help nonviolent, first-time offenders avoid tainting their record with a criminal conviction while also helping to offload some of the minor cases from an already overcrowded court system. Under this program, if you're charged with a crime, you have the opportunity to enter a supervised agreement with your local prosecutor and judge for a period of 1-3 years. During this time, you'll be asked to fulfill certain requirements and conditions—for example, community service, substance abuse treatment, counseling, etc. Once the program is completed, your case is dismissed with no conviction appearing on your record. Six months after completion, you can request to have your arrest record expunged, leaving no trace that you were ever accused of a crime.
The state has set up certain criteria for determining eligible candidates for PTI, and the prosecutor and judge look at each application on a case-by-case basis to determine who would benefit from PTI. Nonviolent and low-risk offenders are most likely to be approved for PTI, but other offenders are sometimes also considered.
Qualifying for Pretrial Intervention in Warren County
You may be eligible to apply for a PTI program if you meet the following criteria as detailed by New Jersey Courts guidelines:
- You were at least 18 years of age when the crime took place (or are being tried as an adult).
- You are charged with a third- or fourth-degree indictable offense (misdemeanor-level charges are generally not eligible for PTI unless domestic violence is involved).
- You have not been admitted to a PTI program in the past.
- You are a first-time offender.
- You are considered a nonviolent offender.
- You are unlikely to become a repeat offender.
The following are only considered for PTI programs with special permission from the prosecutor:
- Those who are charged with offenses with a “presumption of jail time” (i.e., first- and second-degree offenses and certain drug offenses)
- Public officials charged with crimes related to their office
- Those with a prior criminal record
- Those charged with domestic-violence related offenses who have violated a restraining order
Even if you meet the criteria as a good PTI candidate, the judge and Warren County prosecutor still have the discretion to decide whether to approve your application. A New Jersey defense lawyer can increase your chances of your application being approved.
Applying for Pretrial Intervention in Warren County, NJ
To apply for a PTI program in Warren County, you will submit a completed application (along with fees and supporting documents) 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
Your application will then be reviewed by the Warren County Prosecutor's Office in Belvidere, NJ, to determine whether to approve your application. The Prosecutor's Office will notify you in writing one way or the other as to whether your application is accepted. If you are accepted into a PTI program, you will be given additional instructions as to the terms of your PTI agreement. If you're denied and you believe the decision was unfair, you have the right to appeal the rejection to the superior court. A judge will then review the case to decide whether the prosecutor overstepped their bounds in denying your application.
What Prosecutors Consider when Deciding to Approve a PTI
Prosecutors do not approve PTI programs lightly. They must always weigh the risks of dismissing your charges against the safety of the public, and they generally want to be convinced that you will not be a repeat offender. To that end, they will look at several factors when considering your PTI application, including (but not limited to):
- The nature of the crime itself
- The mitigating facts and circumstances surrounding this incident
- Your intentions in committing the crime (e.g., was it planned or impulsive? Violent or nonviolent?)
- Your age
- Your mental health
- The opinion of the victim of the crime
If I'm Approved for a PTI Program, What Will the Requirements Be?
A judge can technically establish any conditions for your PTI that he/she deems appropriate. The goal is to tailor the program to your needs for the purpose of rehabilitating you and helping you avoid further criminal charges in the future. However, some common requirements of PTI include:
- Required community service
- Mandatory counseling and/or treatment
- Payment of restitution for the victim(s)
- Random drug testing
- Avoiding further arrests
While your PTI is in effect, you will also be required to meet regularly with an assigned PTI probation officer who will monitor your progress.
What Happens if I Don't Hold Up My End of the Agreement?
Under the terms of your pretrial intervention, having the charges dismissed depends on your fulfilling all the obligations of your PTI agreement without fail. If you don't complete all the requirements, the prosecutor may revoke your PTI agreement and begin prosecuting your case again—even if your PTI period is almost complete. For example, you can be disqualified from PTI if:
- You are arrested while the PTI is in effect
- You fail a random drug test
- You don't complete all your required hours of community service
- You fail to pay restitution or fines
- You don't show up to your scheduled meetings with your probation officer
Because your success hinges on your ability to meet the obligations of your PTI agreement, you should talk to your probation officer and/or your attorney if you believe you may have trouble holding up your end of the bargain.
How a New Jersey Defense Attorney Can Help with Pretrial Intervention
Even if you are legally eligible for a PTI program, convincing the Warren County Prosecutor that you are a worthy candidate can be a challenge. A skilled New Jersey defense attorney will know what the prosecutor is looking for in a candidate and can help put you in the best possible position for success. The attorney can also work with the prosecutor to make the conditions of your PTI agreement reasonable so you can complete them with little difficulty. Your chances of approval are considerably higher with an experienced attorney than if you attempt to apply on your own.
Contact a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Being charged with a crime in Warren County, NJ, is obviously no laughing matter. The repercussions of a conviction can be severe and long-lasting. Don't leave your future to fate if you are facing criminal charges. If you are an eligible candidate, a PTI program could give you a second chance, a chance to keep your record clean. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm has vast experience helping clients get approved for pretrial intervention to clear a record. Call us at 888-535-3686 or email us to learn more.