1. What is Pretrial Intervention?
Pretrial Intervention (PTI) is a program which diverts a criminal defendant from the normal course of prosecution. The program is governed by the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12 and R. 3:28, and the Guidelines thereto.
2. What does Pretrial Intervention do?
Pretrial Intervention requires a defendant to fulfill certain conditions agreed upon prior to entry into the program. If those conditions are successfully completed during a time period designated by the court, the charges are dismissed. The following are examples of conditions routinely imposed: a defendant may be ordered to pay restitution, attend anger management counseling, obtain a substance abuse evaluation and follow any recommendations, perform a set number of hours of community service and to pay fines.
3. How long does Pretrial Intervention last?
The Pretrial Intervention program lasts from between one year up to three years, depending on the defendant and the circumstances surrounding admission into the program. There is also a procedure through which the defendant may request dismissal of the charges after only six months of supervision in the program.
4. What is the effect of Pretrial Intervention?
If a defendant successfully completes the program, the criminal charges and any lesser-included disorderly persons offenses or motor vehicle summonses are dismissed. Any remaining disorderly persons offenses or motor vehicle summonses are returned to the appropriate municipal court for trial.
5. Can the defendant’s record be expunged?
Yes, the defendant may move to expunge his/her criminal record six months after the criminal charges are dismissed due to PTI. The defendant must otherwise be eligible for expungement.
6. How many times can a defendant obtain Pretrial Intervention?
A defendant may only participate in one program of this type. Therefore, any defendant with a prior admission into the Pretrial Intervention program or a conditional discharge (either in municipal or Superior court) is not eligible to apply.
7. What are the criteria for application to the Pretrial Intervention program?
The applicable rules set forth 17 different factors which must be considered by the Prosecutor and the Pretrial Intervention Director when deciding a defendant’s suitability for the program. Defendants with a prior felony conviction, defendants charged with first or second degree crimes, defendants charged with distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, or defendants having been on probation, parole, or incarcerated within the last five years must obtain permission from the Prosecutor to apply to Pretrial Intervention. A defendant charged with a domestic violence offense is presumed to be ineligible for the program.
8. How does a defendant apply to Pretrial Intervention?
A defendant must complete an application form which is reviewed by the Pretrial Intervention Director in Criminal Case Management. If the defendant qualifies to apply, an interview is conducted, a report is prepared, and a recommendation as to the defendant’s suitability is made. The report is sent to the Prosecutor’s Office for review.
9. What does the Prosecutor’s Office do with the report?
An Assistant Prosecutor is assigned to review the report and the case file. The Assistant Prosecutor then makes a recommendation to the Bergen County Prosecutor, who makes the final decision. If the Prosecutor decides to admit the defendant, the order is signed and the conditions set. The order is then forwarded to Criminal Case Management to obtain the signatures of the defendant, his/her attorney and the judge on the order. If the defendant is rejected, the defendant receives a copy of a memorandum setting forth the basis for the rejection.
10. Does the victim have any input into the decision of whether to accept the defendant into Pretrial Intervention?
Yes, the Probation Officer assigned to prepare the report will contact the victim. Also, the reviewing Assistant Prosecutor reads the Victim Impact Statement in the case file. It is very important that the victim complete and return this form.
11. Can the victim request restitution?
Yes, restitution can be a condition of Pretrial Intervention. The victim must provide documentation for the requested amount. The restitution can be paid over the period of Pretrial Intervention and any amount remaining will be reduced to a civil judgment, which can be executed by the victim against the defendant, and any property or pay belonging to the defendant.
12. Is a rejection by the Prosecutor a final decision?
The defendant has the right to appeal the denial of Pretrial Intervention. The burden is on the defendant to show a “patent and gross abuse of discretion” by the Prosecutor. The judge may either deny the appeal, in which case the defendant is not admitted into Pretrial Intervention, or the judge may grant the appeal and order the defendant’s entry into the program. The judge has a third option of returning the Pretrial Intervention package to the Prosecutor for reconsideration. If the State does not agree with the judge’s decision, the State has the option of appealing the matter to the Appellate Division.
13. What happens if the defendant does not comply with the conditions of Pretrial Intervention?
If a defendant does not comply with the conditions set forth in the order or in the general conditions of Pretrial Intervention, the supervising Probation Officer will file a motion with the Court to terminate the defendant’s participation in the program. If the Court grants the termination, the case is returned to the active trial list or scheduled for sentencing, depending on if the defendant pleaded guilty upon entry into the program.