New PTI Guidelines for New Jersey

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

Pretrial Intervention is, prior to these modifications, a first time offenders alternative disposition program aimed at non-violent non-weapons offense first time offenders that enabled defendants access to a non-jail probationary period up to 36 months.   If a defendant successfully completes the probationary period without any new charges or convictions, or probation violations (such as not paying fines, not maintaining employment, having positive drug tests) or any other conditions set by the court, the charges will be dismissed and the defendant will not have any criminal conviction of their record.

One March 1, 2016 New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General released a modified set of PTI guidelines for 1st and 2nd degree offenses and crimes involving domestic violence.  There are really three new areas which defendants need to be aware of in order to determine if they are entitled to PTI as first time offenders.  Initially, these guidelines open the door to PTI for certain major crimes in the 1st and 2nd degree offense level.  Admission is not guaranteed for all 1st degree and 2nd degree crimes, especially weapons offense or sex crimes.  However, these revisions at least opens the door for ‘prosecutorial consideration’ as opposed to blanket statutory preclusion in all circumstances.  At least defendants now have access to judicial review of the prosecutor’s judgement of denial for these more serious crimes. The second change enables defendants changes with domestic violence crimes which may or may not be  the subject to temporary and final restraining Orders to have access to PTI which they did not have prior to these changes.

PTI is presumptively not allowed for defendants charged with:

a) domestic violence charges against those who are already the subject of temporary or final restraining orders at the time of the new offense,

b) the charge involves ‘violence or the threat of violence’ pursuant to NJSA 2C:11-1b or d ,

c) a deadly weapon is used, threatened or gestured pursuant to NJSA 2C:11-1c,

d) the defendant threatens or inflicts significant bodily injury.

The final change is procedural in nature and only applies to certain PTI applicants.  The new ‘class’ of defendants entitled to PTI under these guidelines who apply and are accepted into PTI must plead guilty prior to be entered into the PTI program.  As a result, during the plea colloquy, the defendant must also be asked if he understanding if s/he violates the terms of the PTI program they will be kicked out of the program, the alternative sentence will be put in place, and they will have a conviction on their record.  If the original charge is a 1st or 2nd degree domestic violence charge, the alternative plea will usually include state prison time.  Hence, more motivation to successfully complete to PTI program.

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