The purpose of Pretrial Intervention (PTI)

Maynard Law Office, LLC posted in Criminal Defense on Friday, May 16, 2014.

In New Jersey, pretrial intervention (PTI) is a diversionary program, intended to rehabilitate the offender and avoid the stigma that comes with a criminal conviction. That being said, when can an offender enter into PTI? Can he or she be sentenced to PTI following a guilty verdict at trial? The New Jersey Supreme Court concluded in the case of State v. Sean Bell that an offender cannot enter into a pretrial diversionary program following a guilty verdict at trial.

In this case, the defendant, Bell was charged with second-degree aggravated assault and third-degree aggravated assault, along with a co-defendant. His criminal defense attorney advised him that he would be denied entry into pretrial intervention because of his second-degree charge. At trial, the second-degree aggravated assault charge was dropped and was convicted of one count of third-degree aggravated assault, and Bell applied for PTI prior to sentencing on the grounds that Bell should have been admitted into the program as his co-defendant was admitted. Also, a prior case heard before the Supreme Court concluded that a defendant may enter into PTI following trial (under very narrow circumstances). The judge at the Ocean County Superior Court granted Bell’s application for entry, and the State appealed.

The Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s decision, and the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed. The Supreme Court advises that pretrial intervention is strictly a pre-trial program. The words used by the Legislature, when drafting the law, clearly implies that a defendant may only enter into this program prior to trial and a guilty verdict by a jury. The Court concluded that, “PTI is a pretrial diversionary program. Admission to PTI following a jury trial and the return of a guilty verdict is the antithesis of the very purpose of the program.”

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