Probation vs. Pretrial Intervention Program in NJ

What to Consider When it Comes to Resolving a Criminal Case

In order for an individual to make an educated decision on whether to accept a plea offer or proceed to trial, it is crucial for them to full understand what is required of them under the proposed plea offer. For example, is there jail time? State prison time? Is it flat time? No Early Release Act? What is the fine? Will I have to go to Rehab? Anger Management? Will I have a criminal record? How long will this remain on my record? These are just a few of the obvious questions that an individual should be considering when discussing their options. The specific charge in question as well as the individual’s criminal history are typically the two main factors that go into determining what a potential sentence might look like. New Jersey also has several different types of diversionary programs, including the Pretrial Intervention Program, the Conditional Dismissal Program and the Conditional Discharge Program. These three diversionary programs at first glance look very similar to a probationary sentence and for the most part they are, but the differ in a very important aspect. That is, if the individual successfully completes the program they will not have a criminal record. So here is a breakdown on some of the key differences between these two types of criminal resolutions.

What is the Difference between PTI and Probation in New Jersey?

How does PTI work in New Jersey?

Diversionary programs like Pretrial Intervention (PTI) could be a sentencing option for certain individuals. Typically, to be eligible for this type of sentence the individual must be a first time offender, facing a lower level indictable offense, usually a third or fourth degree crime. In order to gain admission into the program, the individual must be interviewed by the probationary department and then screened by the County prosecutor. If it is determined that the individual is a good candidate for the program the individual will appear before a Judge and formally be enrolled.  This is where it gets confusing. If they are enrolled, the are placed on probation for a term ranging for six months to three years. During that term, they would be required to report to their probation officer as required. They could also be required to meet certain conditions, just like if they were placed on probation, including but not limited too community service, have a loss of license imposed, anger management, drug evaluation, mental health evaluation and random drug screenings. If the individual successfully completes the program then the individual will walk away without a criminal record and the case will be closed. However, if the individual violates any of the conditions imposed, the case will get back to the trial court for further litigation. If a conditional plea was entered in order to gain admission into the program and the individual violates the terms of PTI then their case does not go back to the trial court for further litigation but instead it proceeds right to sentencing. Second degree offenses like eluding, drug distribution, aggravated assault and domestic violence crimes like terroristic threats and stalking will require the individual to enter a plea of guilty prior to entering the program.

How does Probation work in NJ?

Probation is another common sentence imposed in Superior Courts. Unlike PTI, if an individual is placed on probation, and if they successfully complete the term imposed without violating any of the conditions, their charges will not be dismissed. In other words, in order to receive a probationary sentence, the individual must enter a formal guilty plea to the charge. That guilty plea will not be held in abeyance like it does for PTI. So regardless if the individual successfully completes probation or not they will still have a criminal record as a result of the charge. Just like PTI, a probationary sentence will come with typical conditions. That includes undergoing a substance abuse evaluation, a mental health evaluation, community service, loss of license and domestic violence counseling. Another condition that may be required is that the individual has to serve up to 364 days in the County jail as a condition of probation. That is correct, a probationary sentence could include some jail time. It is important to note here that a County Jail sentence differs from a State Prison sentence. An individual can only have a county jail term imposed as a condition of probation not a state prison term. Typically speaking, in order for an individual to receive a probationary sentence, the offense for which they are being sentenced on will be a third or fourth degree indictable (felony) offense. Some common third and fourth degree charges where probation is given include: Theft, burglarydrug possession, aggravated assault, criminal sexual contact and shoplifting.

So, with all that being said, the most important differences between a PTI sentence and a probationary sentence is the fact that if the individual successfully completes PTI, they will walk away without a criminal conviction. Also, a jail term cannot be a condition of a PTI sentence but it can be a condition of a probationary sentence. 

FAQ’s on Probation and PTI:

  • Can they really send me to jail if I get probation?
    • Yes. As mentioned above, a condition of probation could be a county jail sentence and it can range up to 364 days.
  • What happens if I violate probation?
    • If you are found guilty of violating probation the Judge will have the ability to sentence you to the maximum punishment allowed for under the original offense. For example, if it you were on probation for a third degree offense, the Judge could sentence you to a term of five years in State Prison.
  • Can I get PTI twice?
    • No. PTI is a once in a life time opportunity.
  • If I used a Conditional Dismissal, can I still get PTI?
    • No. An individual is only allowed one diversionary program in their life time, regardless of the specific program.
  • What is the maximum term of probation a Judge can give?
    • The maximum term a Judge can give is five years probation conditioned upon the individual serving 364 days in the County Jail.
  • If I get PTI can the Judge require me to do jail time too?
    • No. Jail time cannot be a condition of a diversionary program.
  • What if I used a Diversionary Program in another State, can I still get PTI?
    • More likely than not, no. If the program is similar in nature to New Jersey’s then you will not be allowed to enter.
  • Can I leave the State if I am on Probation?
    • Typically, yes. You will need permission from your probation officer as well as permission from the State you are seeking to move too.
  • Can I get off probation early?
    • Yes, it is possible. You would have to file a formal motion and it will ultimately be up to the Judge.
  • Can I expunge a Probationary Sentence?
    • More often than not, yes. Some charges might be statutorily barred. With that being said, there is a waiting period that must be satisfied prior to expunging a conviction. For more information on expungements, please visit our dedicated resource page.

Ask Criminal Defense Lawyers Serving all of Monmouth County if You can get Probation or Pretrial Intervention

As you can see from above, it is absolutely crucial that you full understand everything you are getting yourself into when it comes time to evaluating a plea offer. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Belmar, Wall Township, Howell, Atlantic Highlands, Freehold, Middletown, Holmdel, Red Bank, Tinton Falls or elsewhere throughout Monmouth County, Keith G. Oliver and the attorneys at Keith Oliver Criminal Law can help. We handle all types of charges, including robbery, unlawful possession of a weapon, burglary, drug distribution, cocaine possessionfake id, disorderly conduct, driving while intoxicated and harassment just to name a few. If you would like to set up a free initial consultation today, please contact our office at 732-858-6959.

Author: Keith G. Oliver

Founding partner Keith G. Oliver has a passion for helping people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. He believes that everyone has a right to be presumed innocent, and that one mistake shouldn’t define a person forever. This passion drives Mr. Oliver to tirelessly fight for his clients and pursue the best possible outcome in every case.