Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been dealing with waves of controversy following the widespread sharing of video footage that features him knocking out his now-wife, Janay Palmer, in a casino elevator in Atlantic City, New Jersey. After the footage went viral, Rice was admitted to a pretrial intervention program (PTI) to determine how best to handle this display of domestic violence. Since then, the PTI laws have been called into question, criminal attorneys in New Jersey say, in a way that undermines the prosecutorial discretion built into the law.
What is Prosecutorial Discretion?
The pretrial intervention law is laid out as a multi-step process and includes a list of criteria by which defendants who seek admission to the program are evaluated. N.J.S.A. 2C:43 outlines the 17 criteria to consider for each defendant, which includes the facts of the case, the nature of the crime, the likelihood that the crime is related to a condition that could be changed through counseling or therapy and whether the victim wants to forgo prosecution.
Prosecutorial discretion allows the court judges and support staff to determine whether charges should be brought in court, as well as the nature of the charges. In this case, the PTI law allows a judge to exercise prosecutorial discretion to determine whether a person should be admitted to the program or not.
PTI applications are reviewed by court staff members and the county prosecutor’s office before being handed to a judge for the final decision. In Rice’s case, Superior Court Judge Michael Donino approved the player for the PTI program on May 20th. He has been entered into a one-year program, and if he stays out of trouble for the full duration, the charges of third-degree aggravated assault against him will be dismissed.
What Is the Problem?
Critics are saying that Rice’s admission to the PTI program is a sham, especially after TMZ released a second video on September 8th that appears to show Rice punching Palmer in the face. This video fueled the already-building rage against Rice and the public feeling that the PTI program is too lenient for the crime.
However, the PTI evaluation process takes all factors into account, including the violent nature of Rice’s crimes. Although the video provokes an emotional response, the evaluation must be done in cold calculation and consideration of all the facts. The request from Janay Palmer not to prosecute her husband likely had a huge hand in tempering the violence of the crime. Additionally, the defendant’s upbringing, education, community service, employment history and prior criminal record (if any) were likely taken into account when determining if the PTI program would be the best option.
Ultimately, the decision to admit Rice to the PTI program has remained in effect. But the controversy surrounding the decision, and the wave of new legislation regarding domestic violence and criminal procedures in New Jersey following the viral video, could call into question future PTI decisions and may even threaten the prosecutorial decision the law allows.
The criminal attorneys at New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, are here for you if you need help understanding your options through the PTI laws and program. Contact an HCK attorney to discuss your case today.