If a person has been charged with a crime and the prosecution has strong enough evidence to convict, there is an option that can help avoid a criminal record. Pre-trial intervention (PTI) is a diversionary program that is generally offered to first-time offenders in New Jersey as an alternative to other prescribed penalties (including but not limited to jail time).
The guidelines to qualify for PTI are strict and there are certain crimes where PTI will not be offered. The court will take into account several factors, including the defendant’s background, and consider whether those issues played a role in the commission of the crime.
The goal of PTI is to deter a person from committing any future criminal acts once the program has been completed. The good news is that a person who finishes the program will not have a criminal record. PTI also helps the court resolve the matter early and without a lengthy court process.
What Are the Qualifications for Pre-Trial Intervention?
A person who has been charged with a crime in New Jersey can apply for PTI if he/she meets the following criteria:
- They are a legal adult (over 18)
- They have no prior convictions (some exceptions may apply)
- They are not currently on parole or probation (some exceptions may apply)
- They have not already been granted PTI in a previous case
- They are being charged with a crime or municipal ordinance (traffic violations do not qualify)
There are exceptions to even these rules. For example, if the person is charged with a first- or second-degree crime or a violent crime, he/she will not qualify. A person can also be rejected (although it is not guaranteed) if he/she is being charged with a crime that is connected with organized crime or an ongoing criminal enterprise.
Also, PTI does not apply if the charge carries a presumption of non-incarceration. For charges like this, it is assumed that a conviction will not carry a jail sentence. This is the case for many third- and most fourth-degree crimes, as well as disorderly persons offenses (such as vandalism) in New Jersey.
Why Should I Apply for Pre-Trial Intervention?
The most obvious reason for applying for PTI is that, if successful, the applicant can avoid the stigma of having a criminal record. PTI also avoids many of the costs associated with the formal court process; there are relatively minimal costs associated with PTI. The PTI process is also faster than going to trial, making it easier to put the entire incident in the past and move on with one’s life.
What Does a Pre-Trial Intervention Program Consist Of?
Depending on the facts surrounding the case, PTI can involve drug testing, community service and compliance with recommended treatment programs such as anger management or drug and alcohol treatment. If an individual does not successfully complete the program then the case will be brought back to the court calendar and the judge can decide how to punish the defendant if convicted.
PTI is available for adult defendants that generally reside in the State of New Jersey. If a person has a previous criminal record they usually will not be eligible for the PTI program. Also, if a person has used PTI once before or another similar diversionary program like Conditional Discharge they will not be eligible for PTI.
If I Enter a PTI Program, Can I Still Get My Record Expunged Later?
PTI avoids any record of the offense, so individuals who complete the program will not have a criminal record and thus will not need to file for an expungement. However, those who complete a PTI and then reoffend later are another matter. Starting October of 2018, New Jersey will remove a provision that denied expungements to individuals who had previously entered a PTI program. Thus, if a person completes a PTI and later reoffends, he/she could still be eligible to have those crimes expunged.
How Can I Enter a Pre-Trial Intervention Program?
To see if you qualify for a Pre-Trial Intervention program you should consult with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help guide you through the process and argue your case for admission. The application process is not simple and includes an interview with the Criminal Division of the Superior Court. If you have committed a first offense for a crime in New Jersey or you made an attempt to apply for PTI and were denied, contact the Rosenblum Law Firm today for a free consultation about your case.