After the recent debate regarding NFL player Ray Rice’s admission to a pre-trial intervention (PTI) program as part of his rehabilitation in a domestic violence case, PTI programs and the laws regarding admission have come under fire in the media and state courtrooms. Now, a ruling from the New Jersey Supreme Court has further limited the reasons a person can be denied access to the program.
According to the state Supreme Court justices, any prior charges that have been dismissed from a defendant’s record cannot be used as reasons to bar that defendant from admission to a PTI program. As Justice Lee Solomon wrote for the court’s unanimous decision, “the prosecutor and the program director may not infer guilt from the sole fact that a defendant was charged, when the charges were dismissed.” Directly assuming guilt is unfair to the defendant seeking admission into the PTI program, especially when the charges are no longer on his or her criminal record.
State v. K.S.
The state Supreme Court’s ruling could open doors for several New Jersey residents who had previously been denied access to a PTI program. In the case in question, State v. K.S., a Somerset County man known in the court documents as K.S. had been barred from PTI based on past criminal charges.
In 2006, K.S. was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, although he refused to complete a Breathalyzer test. According to the police report, he got into an altercation with the police officer who pulled him over and spat blood at the officer. He was charged with third-degree resisting arrest, third-degree aggravated assault on an officer and fourth-degree charges of throwing bodily fluids at a police officer. At the time of his arrest, K.S. had a criminal record from charges as a juvenile and an adult, including ones for fighting, harassment and weapons possession. All of these charges were dismissed.
Following his arrest in 2006, K.S. and his New Jersey attorney lobbied for admittance to the PTI program. If admitted, K.S. could complete the program and have his criminal charges dismissed. The PTI program director and the Somerset County prosecutor denied his application because K.S. had a “history of anti-social behavior,” a conclusion drawn in part by his previous dropped charges. K.S. eventually pleaded guilty to refusing to take a breath test and the lesser charges and was sentenced to probation, restitution and community service.
The state Supreme Court, in hearing K.S.’s appeal, ruled that “because the record contains no admission of conduct to support the truth of the allegations…those charges were not appropriate factors to be considered in deciding whether to admit defendant into PTI.” Taken further, any charges that have been dismissed from a person’s record cannot later be used against them.
At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our New Jersey lawyers represent clients who have been unfairly denied admission into intervention programs that could help them get back on the right track. To discuss your options and the PTI programs available to you, contact us today.