Patent, Gross Abuse of Discretion and Denial of Application for PTI (Pre Trial Intervention)

14-2-9069 State v. Darling, App. Div.

Submitted by New Jersey DWI Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

On Feb. 8, 2014, a police officer stopped defendant’s car for a random registration check when it used a license plate reader attached to the police cruiser.   The defendant, who had prior DWI suspensions and Driving While Suspended guilty pleas, both of which, resulted in his registration privileges being suspended, was still driving his auto. The officer issued defendant summonses for driving an unregistered vehicle and driving with a suspended license. A check of defendant’s driver’s abstract revealed that he had been convicted of driving while intoxicated on three prior occasions, obviously resulting in no less than a 2 year suspension but no greater than a 3 year suspension. Defendant also had five prior convictions for driving while his license was suspended; three of these convictions were for driving while suspended for DWI. When the officer stopped him on Feb. 8, 2014, defendant’s license was still suspended as the result of his third DWI conviction. As a result of driving while suspended during a second or greater DWI conviction the defendant was charged with and indicted on the 4th degree criminal charge as a repeat offender of 39:3-40 while being suspended due to a second or greater DWI conviction.

Defendant applied for PTI (Pre Trial Intervention), and the PTI director recommended that defendant be admitted into the program. However, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office rejected defendant’s enrollment application.  There have been several sase reviewed by the trial and appellate courts in the 4th degree offense, the parol disqualifier of 180 days, and the mandatory incarceration of said statute.  In addition, this blog has addressed on numerous occasions the standard of review the Court’s have to employ when reviewing the Prosecutor’s PTI program.

In this case the appellate panel found that the trial judge’s findings regarding the state’s articulated reasons for rejecting defendant’s admission into PTI were not supported by the record. The prosecutor did not give short shrift to the personal facts of defendant’s case, such as this being his first indictable offense, his employment history, the three character reference letters, or the fact that he was not intoxicated when he was arrested. Nor did the prosecutor’s office arbitrarily reject defendant’s application based on a per se rule, or place improper, undue weight on the perceived legislative intent of deterrence based on the mandatory incarceration provisions of the statute. The state considered the relevant factors and exercised permissible discretion in rendering its determination. The appellate panel reversed, finding no patent and gross abuse of discretion by the state in denying defendant’s admission into PTI.  As a result, the appellate court over turned the trial court’s admission of this defendant into PTI.  The court ruled the trial court abused its discretion when allowed the defendant into PTI over the prosecutor’s decision.

When a trial court is asked to review the Prosecutor’s Office’s denial  of a defendant’s application into PTI the court must find a patent and gross abuse of discretion when it reviewed the many factors the state employs when reviewing the PTI application.  They Morris County Prosecutor’s Office did not in this case.

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Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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