In New Jersey, people charged with crimes may be able to enter into the pre-trial intervention (PTI) program rather than go through the traditional prosecution process. PTI is not available in all circumstances, however. Instead, certain factors are assessed in determining if PTI is appropriate, as discussed in a recent New Jersey case. If you are accused of committing a crime, it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable New Jersey criminal defense attorney regarding your available options.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including unlawful possession of a knife, terroristic threats, and resisting arrest. The prosecutor that was assigned to the case offered a plea deal to the defendant that required the defendant to apply to PTI and to submit to a mental health evaluation. The defendant then applied to PTI. His application was denied, however, on the grounds that his alleged crime took place in a church, and the PTI director felt that acts that violated the sanctity of churches needed to be deterred.

It is alleged that the State then adopted the PTI director’s findings and cited other factors for the denial of PTI, such as the defendant’s inability to be monitored through PTI. The defendant appealed the denial of PTI, but his appeal was denied. He then pleaded guilty to the resisting arrest charge in exchange for the dismissal of his remaining charges. After his sentencing hearing, he appealed the trial court’s ruling regarding PTI.

Eligibility for Pre-Trial Intervention

On appeal, the defendant argued, in part, that because no mental health evaluation was conducted, the State did not have enough information to argue that the defendant could not be appropriately supervised through PTI. The appellate court agreed, stating that pursuant to New Jersey law, a prosecutor is required to evaluate a defendant’s mental health, as mental illness bore directly on the issue of whether a defendant is suitable for short-term rehabilitation while being subject to PTI supervision.

The appellate court further explained that while the PTI statute did not explain the level of supervision provided, the New Jersey courts have held that defendants that need intensive services to prevent further criminal behavior may be better suited for probation, while defendants that do not need extensive rehabilitative services may benefit from PTI. In the subject case, however, the appellate court found that no assessment was made as to what level of supervision the defendant needed, despite the defendant’s willingness to undergo a mental health evaluation. Thus, the appellate court found that absent a mental health report, the State court could not have accurately assessed the defendant’s suitability for PTI. As such, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling and remanded for further proceedings.

Confer with a Skillful Criminal Defense Attorney

Many criminal defendants can avoid the stress of setting forth a defense in a protracted criminal case by entering into pre-trial intervention. If you are faced with a weapons offense or other criminal charges, it is advisable to confer with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney regarding what measures may be available to protect your rights. At The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, our skillful attorneys can advise you of your potential defenses and aid you in pursuing a just result. You can reach us through our online form or at 877-450-8301 to schedule a meeting.