Only If the Court Finds That the Prosecutor Abused His or Her Discretion Will a Trial Court or Appellate Division Overturn a PTI Denial
Appellate Docket No.: A-2868-18
Decided February 22, 2021
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In an unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division of New Jersey reviewed whether a denial for PTI was appropriate for a defendant attempting to lure an underage girl for sexual intercourse.
In State v. Sorokach, defendant posted advertisements in the personal section on Craigslist. One of defendant’s advertisements entitled, “High School Sluts M4W,”. Detective Tiffany Lenart of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office assumed the identity of a fifteen-year-old girl named J.S. Posing as J.S., Detective Lenart responded to defendant’s advertisement indicating she was a fifteen-year-old girl from Freehold. Defendant responded to J.S. that he was a thirty-one-year-old mechanic from Brick. The two began to exchange sexually explicit messages, and defendant sent J.S. three pictures of his genitalia on April 26 and 28, 2017, and asked J.S. to send him nude photographs of herself in return.
Defendant and J.S. made plans to meet in person at the WalMart Supercenter in Howell on May 6, 2017, at 8:30 a.m. On his way to the Wal-Mart parking lot, defendant sent multiple emails to J.S. confirming he was in route. At 8:15 a.m., defendant arrived and was immediately placed under arrest.
Defendant was charged under Monmouth County Indictment Number 18-04-0531, with second-degree attempted sexual assault, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(c)(4), (count one); second-degree luring or enticing a child, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:13-6(a), (count two); third-degree attempted endangering the welfare of a child, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:24- 4(a)(1), (count three); and two counts of third-degree attempted obscenity to a minor, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:34-3(b)(2), (counts four and five).
Defendant applied for Pretrial Intervention (PTI). His application was denied by the prosecutor and defendant appealed to the Law Division. The Judge found that the prosecutor considered all relevant factors in rejecting defendant’s PTI application. Defendant appealed the denial.
The Appellate Division affirmed the denial, finding that upon denial by the prosecutor, defendant failed to demonstrate compelling circumstances warranting the prosecutor’s decision to be overturned as arbitrary or capricious. So long as the prosecutor analyzes each of the factors and explains the denial, as was the case here, the denial of PTI will be upheld.
It is important to understand the Pretrial Intervention (PTI) process. A defendant may apply for PTI, but it is ultimately in the prosecutor’s sole discretion as to whether admit or deny PTI. Only if the court finds that the prosecutor abused his or her discretion – a very high standard – will a trial court or Appellate Division overturn a PTI denial. So long as the prosecutor’s statement of reasons covers all factors and does not merely parrot the law, but analyzes the factors with a defendant’s circumstances, it is very difficult to challenge a prosecutor’s denial. That is why it is important to hire an experienced attorney to make a detailed application from the outset to give you the best chance that the prosecutor does not veto your PTI application.
If you have been charged with any, first degree crime, second degree crime, third degree crime, fourth degree crime, disorderly persons offense, municipal ordinance violation, or traffic ticket / DUI/DWI, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today. Failing to hire a defense attorney and putting your faith in a public defender could give you adverse results.
At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in Superior Court and municipal court for criminal matters like the present case. We vigorously defend our clients by fighting to ensure prosecutors, police, and even judges follow the law.
We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing criminal charges similar to this circumstance, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties.