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FAQs About the New Jersey Pre-Trial Intervention Program

Client asking for lawyer's help on pre-trial intervention program.First-time offenders who commit minor offenses are not a threat to our communities, so New Jersey law recognizes the benefits of working to help deter future criminal behavior. Many people fall on hard times or make one-time mistakes. Unfortunately, those without competent legal representation often find themselves facing severe penalties, even when other options are available. Learn more about the New Jersey pre-trial intervention program here.

If you’ve been charged with a first-time offense, you deserve to explore all options. Call The Law Office of Jason A. Volet. Unlike many criminal defense lawyers, he has practiced law from both sides of the aisle, as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. Jason A. Volet understands that people make mistakes─including police and prosecutors ─ and he fights hard to make sure his clients get a fair shake.

What Is the New Jersey Pre-Trial Intervention Program?

For people who have no criminal record (or a very limited one), New Jersey courts offer an alternative to the traditional trial procedures. The New Jersey Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI) offers a rehabilitative option to help offenders avoid future violations of the law. Think of it as a way to recognize that the law was broken but offer reasonable and realistic alternatives to prevent future crimes.

The program acknowledges that typically crimes do not happen in a vacuum. Rather, there may be socio-economic, financial, or even cultural reasons behind a person’s crime. Likewise, alcohol or drug addiction or mental health issues could play a role. Rather than strictly incarcerate offenders, the program seeks to identify the barriers to law-abiding behavior and rehabilitate the offender.

Is Pre-Trial Intervention a Conviction?

Not if the offender completes the program.Here’s briefly how the program works:

  1. Enter Program: The offender agrees to enter the program and meet all conditions.
  2. Conditions: The court will assign conditions, which can include abstaining from drugs and alcohol, avoiding certain people or environments, passing routine drug or alcohol screenings, and many other things that are dependent on the type of case.
  3. Complete Program: If the offender completes the program, there will be no conviction. However, the offender may wish to consider petitioning to expunge the arrest record and other related items from the record.
  4. Fail to Complete the Program: If the offender does not complete the program (i.e. violates conditions), then he or she is returned to the start of the whole process to be treated like any other offender. This can be a huge waste of time and can create a feeling that the punishment is worse than if the offender just pled guilty and took the conviction. Of course, the benefits of completing the program are very attractive.

Is Pre-Trial Intervention Probation?

Not really. It operates in much the same way as probation, and it is overseen by the same department. But it is actually a diversion program.

Probation is when you are convicted, but the court allows you to serve all or part of your sentence outside of jail. In other words, probation is a sentence or punishment, whereas PTI is an alternative to conviction and sentencing.

When you complete probation, you still have a criminal record. When you complete PTI, you do not.

How Long Does It Take to Complete PTI?

The program will last 6 months to 3 years, depending on the case. The more severe the crime and longer the potential sentence, the longer an offender should expect to be in the program. During that time, an offender should make use of the resources offered, which may include substance abuse counseling, rehab, job counseling, and many other things that can help an offender get back on his or her feet.

If poverty or substance abuse played a role in the crime, this can be a restorative time, where an offender can make progress toward a better life that will hopefully be crime-free in the future.

Who Is Eligible for the PTI Program?

The Pre-Trial Intervention Program is designed for relatively less serious offenses, which are often committed by first-time offenders. It is not available for charges such as murder, sexual assault, and so forth. Therefore, some people and charges simply do not qualify. Here are just some of the eligibility rules:

  • PTI is for adult offenders. Other programs apply for juveniles.
  • It’s meant for New Jersey residents. However, out-of-state residents who are arrested in New Jersey can apply. In some cases, the program will accept them.
  • PTI does not apply in federal court.
  • Minor offenses that would only result in a suspended sentence of a fine are not eligible. The purpose is to avoid jail and a burden on the trial court system. If trial and jail are not likely, there’s no reason for the program.
  • In most situations, repeat offenders and those with a record are not eligible.
  • Those who are already on parole or probation may apply, but it is rare.

Is There a Cost to Participate in the Pre-Trial Intervention Program?

Yes, it costs $75. However, for those who are impoverished or otherwise unable to come up with the fee, it can be waived.

That said, when you compare the cost of a conviction and potential jail time to the fee, it’s really no question which is more cost-effective. The costs associated with a conviction go far beyond court fees.

Get Skilled Representation Before Entering a Diversion or PTI Program in New Jersey

Lawyer consultation for conditional dismissal.If you are being offered an opportunity to elect Pre-Trial Intervention, you probably should take it, but not before speaking with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Prosecutors may be offering PTI because they are benevolent and want to see you succeed. They may be handing you a proverbial olive branch to reduce the burden on the court and help you get on with your life.

On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for prosecutors to identify serious problems with the arrest or the evidence.Rather than dismiss a case against an offender, knowing a conviction would be practically impossible, they may offer you PTI. This allows them to look like they are using discretion, when really you are just agreeing to something that may be unnecessary.

An experienced attorney can help you understand just what you are being offered and whether it’s a good deal or not. For legal advice on PTI and more, contact The Law Office of Jason A. Volet to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney today.

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