I just received my PTI denial letter. What should I do? What does this letter mean? Can I appeal?
State v Patel decided May 14, 2018.
Middlesex County PTI denial appeal.
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
I need to appeal the PTI denial letter what do I do? How can I be successful and appealing my PTI decision? Should I fight my PTI denial? How can I get into PTI so I do not have a criminal conviction?
In this PTI appeal the Appellate Division reversed the trial judge’s ordering of the defendant into PTI.
The facts are pretty straightforward and consistent with the ongoing alcohol DWI issues in this state and across the country. The defendant was involved in a car crash after she went out to dinner and began drinking. After she left the bar she was involved in a motor vehicle crash when she looked down at her phone which caused her to cross the double yellow line and drive into oncoming traffic. The police came to the scene, smelled alcohol, took the defendant to the police department. She refused medical treatment at the scene of the crash and she blew a .09 on New Jersey’s Alcotest machine. The officer’s observation to outline in the DWI police report indicated she could not perform the field sobriety tests, vomited at the police department, and successfully blew into New Jersey’s Alcotest machine resulting in a .09 BAC. As a result of the crash and serious injuries to the other driver, this defendant was charged with a second-degree aggravated assault, third-degree assault by auto,and 4th degree assault. The defendant applied for PTI and the criminal case managers office rejected this defendant. The prosecutor’s Office also reviewed the 13 factors laid out in my prior blogs identified by NJSA: 2C: 43–12e and determined that this individual defendant was not eligible for PTI. What is interesting about this case is the fact that the criminal case manager reviewing the PTI application and preparing a detailed report reviewing the facts, criminal record, the lack of any substance abuse history, employment history, analyzed the facts against the PTI statutory factors, and determine this defendant should not be allowed to participate in PTI. Remember there is presumption against PTI for a second a great offense codified in the factors outlined in the statute on the PTI guidelines.
The defendant appealed the criminal case manager’s PTI denial to the trial court and the judge ordered defendant into at PTI program. Following oral argument the trial judge rendered a decision reversing the prosecutors determination and ordering the defendant into PTI. Although the trial judge agreed the prosecutor consider all of the relevant factors, the court ruled the prosecutor’s office incorrectly weighed those factors and abused its discretion when it denied the defendant’s application.
The trial court found that the prosecutors office also engaged in a Katikell rejection based upon the offenses being 2nd°. The judge then krittiq sides of prosecutors office rely upon the same facts when it considered factors 12 and three under the statute. The court also ruled the prosecutors office place too much emphasis on the defendants decision to drink and drive after she was involved in this crash and failed to give adipate wait and consideration to other mitigating factors including the defendants college degree, employment, and future.
The prosecutor’s office appealed arguing the court substitute it’s own decision making process for that of the prosecutors. The Appellate Division agreed. The court turn to the long standing case law that I have blogged about on numerous occasions that PTI is the prosecutors “baby “. What this means is the defendant who has been denied admission into PTI has a substantial and heavy burden to overcome the prosecutorial discretion and wide latitude when they grant or deny a PTI application. What this means is the defendant who has been denied has a substantially heavy burden to overcome the prosecutorial discretion and wide latitude. Our Supreme Court, more than 30 years ago, ruled the prosecutor’s office is entitled to ‘enhanced deference which will rarely be overturned’ so long as a full and complete Review of the facts and circumstances upon which they base their decision Is undertaken and outlined in their decision-making process. In addition, New Jersey appellate courts have reaffirmed the PTI prosecutorial review is afforded broad discretion in their determination of whether a defendant should be diverted because the prosecutor maintains its own charging authority. Judicial review of a prosecutor‘s decision to reject a defendant application is severely limited and served only to check the most egregious examples of injustice and unfairness, and PTI is supposed to augment not diminish a prosecutors options to charge or not to charge a defendant. It is not the trial courts obligation to independently evaluate a PTI application and the trial court cannot substitute it’s own judgment for that of the prosecutors even if the trial court disagrees with the prosecutors rejection and finds the decision harsh.
Ultimately, this appellate panel reiterated the long-standing standard of review. “Regardless of whether the trial court agrees or disagrees with the prosecutors decision, has the prosecutors decision been based on and weighed the relevant factors in a reasonable manner. The defendant has the burden of proof to show that the prosecutors office “clearly and convincing” established a pattern and gross abuse of that prosecutorial discretion. This defendant in particular must show the prosecutor’s decision was not premised on: a) a consideration of all of the relevant factors, b) the decision was based on consideration and facts not relevant or inappropriate, and there was a clear error in judgment. In addition, a defendant must show the prosecutor’s abuse of discretion rose to a level that will subvert the legislature’s goals on the PTI.
Ultimately, in this case the appellate panel determined the trial judge substituted its own decision making process for that of the prosecutor’s. Because the prosecutor’s office clearly evaluated all of the statutory factors and applied them to the facts of this case in their PTI rejection letter, the appellate panel determined that the proper steps were taken when the prosecutor’s office exercised its discretion. When the appellate court reviewed the individual facts of this case it also found there was nothing compelling about this individual defendant and nothing idiosyncratic about her facts and circumstances. She was a young lady who drank too much at dinner, caused a significant and horrific car crash as a result of alcohol, and the prosecutor was entitled to consider those facts because they bear upon the criteria for eligibility. The appellate panel did agree that reasonable minds could differ in analyzing the balancing of all of the factors, however the prosecutor is entitled to discretion in its decision making process and absent a clear and convincing proof of the abuse of discretion there can be no judicial override of the prosecutor’s denial.
There are many questions involving fighting a PTI denial. Each individual set of facts and circumstances are different as well as the steps the prosecutors office takes to review a PTI decision. I always file an appeal of a PTI decision and have been very successful because of the poor decision-making process of the individual County prosecutors office PTI coordinators. Call Hark and Hark and set up an appointment immediately if you have a PTI denial letter. We go over your individual facts and circumstances of as well as your PTI denial letter to determine if you can be successfully appeal your denial.
Jeffrey S. Hark, Esq.
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