Being charged with a crime is always devastating, but for some New Jersey defendants, there may be good news: PTI, or Pre-Trial Intervention. If you qualify for and successfully complete PTI, you can avoid being convicted and will not receive a criminal record. In this article, our Cape May defense attorneys will explain who qualifies for PTI, how you get into the program, and the rules and requirements for participants.
New Jersey PTI Eligibility Criteria
Most jurisdictions divide criminal offenses into felonies and misdemeanors, with felonies being the more serious category. New Jersey calls felonies “indictable crimes,” while misdemeanors are known as “disorderly persons offenses” or simply “DP offenses.” Both indictable crimes and DP offenses carry the potential for fines and incarceration if the defendant pleads guilty or is convicted. DP offenses are handled by New Jersey’s municipal courts, while indictable crimes are prosecuted in Superior Court.
If you or someone you love was arrested for an indictable crime (felony), the consequences can be incredibly harsh. Depending on the way the offense is graded (e.g. fourth degree, first degree), New Jersey fines for indictable crimes can cost defendants tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, while prison sentences can last for years or entire decades. On top of these already stiff penalties, convicted offenders also receive burdensome criminal records which can create long-term problems when it comes to seeking employment and getting approved for loans.
The PTI program offers qualified defendants a chance to avoid all of these issues. As we’ve already noted, successful completion means no conviction, no criminal record, and no time in prison.
However, not everyone will quality for PTI in New Jersey. In order to join the program (and reap its significant legal benefits), you must meet the following PTI eligibility criteria:
- You must be at least 18 years old. PTI is not meant for juveniles.
- There are some exceptions for juveniles aged 14 to 17 who are treated as adults due to committing serious crimes, like robbery or carjacking.
- Ideally, you should be a resident of New Jersey. The judiciary notes that “PTI is designed for New Jersey residents, but others may apply.”
- Keep in mind that PTI is only available for cases over which New Jersey has jurisdiction.
- PTI is designed for serious indictable crimes. Minor offenses will not qualify.
- It must be your first criminal offense. You must have a clean record.
- If you are on probation or parole, you will probably not be allowed to enter the program. However, the prosecutor may grant you an exception if your probation or parole officer is in agreement.
- If you have have already gone through a diversionary program (any program that allows defendants to avoid jail time and a criminal record), you will not qualify for PTI. PTI is meant to give first-time offenders a second chance.
Provided these standards are met, PTI is generally available to persons charged with indictable crimes including but not limited to:
- Aggravated Assault
- Indictable/Felony Drug Crimes (e.g. Drug Possession, Possession with Intent to Distribute)
- Terroristic Threats
The PTI Application Process and Program Requirements
You should always consult with a criminal defense attorney if you’ve been charged with committing a crime, even if you’re unsure whether PTI is a possibility. If you do think you could qualify for PTI, bring it up with your lawyer right away – otherwise you could miss the deadline, which gives defendants just 28 days from the time of the indictment (the formal criminal charge). While you have up to 28 days to make your application, the earlier you can apply, the better. Your attorney will help you with the application process.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as simply filling out a form and jumping into the program. Admittance into PTI hinges on obtaining consent from the prosecutor, who has the power to deny admission – even if the Criminal Division of the Superior Court recommends you for acceptance.
If the prosecutor initially rejects your application, try not to feel too discouraged: a skilled attorney will be able to help you with the appeals process, through which you can challenge the original rejection.
Once you’ve been admitted, you’ll have to follow certain rules and requirements. Remember, PTI is a privilege, not a right – and that privilege can be revoked if you fail to comply with the terms of the program. These terms generally include:
- Avoiding additional arrests.
- Submitting to random drug testing.
- Paying court-ordered fines and fees.
- Performing community service.
- Attending any counseling which may be ordered by the court.
If You Think You Are Eligible for PTI, Our Defense Lawyers Can Help
If you or someone you love was charged with a crime in New Jersey, PTI may be an option. Don’t worry if you don’t know whether you’re a good candidate – that’s what we’re here for. We encourage you to call us at (609) 616-4956 to set up a free, confidential legal consultation, any time of day or evening. Our knowledgeable legal team combines over 45 years of experience, and we are proud to represent clients throughout Atlantic County, Cape May County, Ocean County, Camden County, Burlington County, and more. Se habla español.