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When Are You Eligible for Pretrial Intervention in New Jersey?

February 8, 2024 | Posted In Criminal Law

If you are facing criminal charges in New Jersey, a conviction could lead to fines, jail time and other penalties. Having a criminal conviction on your record will also negatively impact your life long after serving your sentence. As a result, no matter what charges you are facing, it is important that you discuss your case with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

When you speak with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney about your case, your attorney will go over all of the options available to mitigate the consequences of your arrest. If you are a first-time offender, these options may include entering New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention (PTI) Program.

What Is New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention (PTI) Program?

New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention Program provides an opportunity for eligible first-time offenders to avoid the life-altering consequences of a criminal conviction. When you enter into the PTI Program, you are required to meet certain conditions, and “[i]f you complete all of the conditions set by the court, [your] charges will be dismissed.” This all happens before your case goes to trial, which means that you have the opportunity to avoid a conviction entirely.

The conditions set by the court will depend on the criminal charges against you and the unique circumstances of your case. With that said, some examples of common conditions imposed under the PTI program include:

  • Payment of a $50 Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO) penalty
  • Payment of a $75 Safe Neighborhoods Services Fund Assessment (SNSFA)
  • Payment of other penalties, fees, fines and restitution
  • Random drug screening
  • Community service
  • Mental health evaluations (and compliance with treatment recommendations)
  • Drug and alcohol evaluations (and compliance with treatment recommendations)
  • Meeting with a probation officer throughout your participation in the PTI Program

Enrollment in New Jersey’s PTI Program can last for 36 months. You must strictly comply with the terms of your enrollment the entire time you are enrolled. If you do so, your case will be dismissed, you won’t have to go to trial and you won’t face the consequences of a conviction. But, if you fail to complete the PTI program successfully, your criminal case will be reinstated, and you will be forced to defend against your charges in court.

Who Is Eligible for Pretrial Intervention (PTI) in New Jersey?

Criminal defendants who are eligible for PTI in New Jersey generally include first-time offenders charged with indictable crimes under New Jersey law. This means that if you are being charged with a disorderly persons offense or a traffic violation (including DUI), you are not eligible for Pretrial Intervention—unless you are being charged with a disorderly persons offense classified as domestic violence. You also are not eligible for PTI if:

  • You have enrolled in the PTI program previously, or
  • You were previously enrolled in a different conditional discharge or conditional dismissal program (but if the previous conditional discharge was a marijuana charge, the Court has held that you can, in fact, be eligible, based on the new laws allowing personal use of marijuana and the automatic expungement of some marijuana convictions.)

While the PTI Program is generally an option for first-time offenders, repeat offenders can enroll in the program with approval from the prosecutor’s office. Approval from the prosecutor’s office is also required for any defendant facing a jail sentence or mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility.

How Do You Enroll in the Pretrial Intervention (PTI) Program?

Eligible defendants cannot simply enroll in New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention Program. Instead, they must apply. As the New Jersey Courts explain, “You should apply as early as you can, before an indictment if possible.” Additionally, “[your] application must be submitted before the first case disposition conference after your arraignment.” You must file your application with the court’s criminal division in the county where your case is pending, and you must pay the $75 non-refundable application fee at this time.

Should You Enroll in the Pretrial Intervention (PTI) Program?

If you are eligible for New Jersey’s PTI Program, should you seek to enroll? Or is it better to fight your criminal charges in court?

The short answer is, “It depends.”

While enrolling in the PTI Program can protect you from a conviction, it is not without consequences. There are financial costs involved, and you must be prepared to meet the conditions of your enrollment for months, if not years. This can be difficult, and as we mentioned above, if you violate any of the conditions of your enrollment, your case will go back on the court’s trial calendar.

But the costs of completing the PTI Program can pale in comparison to the costs of a serious criminal conviction. As a result, if a conviction at trial seems likely, enrolling in New Jersey’s PTI Program will probably be your best option. With that said, you should talk to a lawyer before filing your application to ensure that you aren’t wasting your time—and that you do everything necessary to maximize the chances of your application being accepted.

Additionally, until your PTI application is accepted, you must continue to handle your case as if it is going to trial. This means that you must attend all scheduled court dates in order to avoid the risk of having a bench warrant issued for your arrest. You must also ensure that you are prepared to defend against your criminal charges in court if necessary. Don’t forget: There is no guarantee that your application will be approved. If you are thinking about applying for PTI, all of these factors make it important to speak with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation with a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney

Do you have questions about New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention (PTI) Program? If so, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. Our attorneys can determine your eligibility, and if applying for PTI is your best option, we can represent you throughout the process. To speak with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. in confidence, please call 877-435-6371 or request an appointment online today.

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