Depending on the type of charge, people accused of a first-time offense in New Jersey may be able to avoid having a criminal record by participating in a pretrial intervention program, or PTI. That was the option taken by three 18-year-olds who were initially charged with criminal mischief and burglary in connection with an alleged vandalism incident at a Bergen County high school. We discussed the case in our previous post, “School official: Escalated reports of NJ school prank a ‘fiction’.”

Twenty-four of the accused 63 students are 18 years old, and so far four of the 18-year-olds have opted for the PTI program. If the PTI participants stay out of trouble for six months and each pay $158 in court fees, then the former students can avoid having a criminal record and move on with their lives.

The school prank occurred in May, and later that month the county prosecutor reduced the charges against the 18-year-olds to disorderly persons offenses. The juveniles implicated in the case were not required to appear in municipal court. Rather, those cases are being handled by a juvenile officer.

Hearings for the other accused 18-year-olds are scheduled through the middle of August.

When senior pranks and the like become criminal matters, it is important to ensure that the ultimate outcome is a positive learning experience and not an impediment to a young person’s future well-being. Juvenile and disorderly persons offenses do not automatically disappear from a person’s record, and accused individuals, no matter their age, have a right to defend against the charge and seek a positive outcome.

Source: NorthJersey.com, “Three former students take deal for clean record in Teaneck High School ‘prank’,” Aaron Morrison, July 16, 2014