State May not Condition Acceptance into PTI on Defendant’s Guilty Plea

In State v Daniel Davies, the Appellate Division held that the prosecutor may not make admission into the PTI (pre-trial intervention)program contingent on the defendant pleading guilty to the underlying offense. In Davies, the defendant was initially rejected from the program. Subsequently, the prosecutor’s office allowed the defendant admission, but only after he agreed to plead guilty to the underlying offense.

The court held that conditioning the acceptance on a guilty plea is expressly forbidden in the PTI guidelines and also in contradiction to previously adjudicated case-law. The Court also stated that this requirement goes against the PTI’s statutory purpose (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12).

This decision is somewhat of a double-edged sword in that the decision to accept an applicant into the PTI program is at the discretion of the prosecutor. Therefore, the option to plead guilty to the criminal offense as a condition of acceptance provides an opportunity to a defendant who would have been rejected, to be accepted, and have the charges dismissed upon successful completion of the program.

Nonetheless, pleading guilty as a condition to PTI acceptance creates big problems for one particular variety of criminal defendant, and that is the non-citizen. Immigration considers these types of guilty pleas “convictions.” A conviction for a felony offense will almost always result in deportation. In most circumstances, it will not matter that the charges were subsequently dismissed because the defendant has already admitted to the allegations against him.

It is also important to note that it is possible to appeal a PTI rejection. I have represented several clients who have been rejected and had that decision overturned following appeal.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, please feel free to contact the office.

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