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Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) is used in certain instances to help defendants who have not committed any other crimes in the past become "rehabilitated" and to establish a good reputation once again. This program is like being on probation without being convicted of a crime. In Essex County, applications by defendants for PTI are reviewed by a paralegal assigned to the Prosecutor's Office PTI Section. The Director of the Section then reviews each file for completeness and PTI appropriateness and makes a recommended disposition to the supervising Executive Assistant Prosecutor. The Executive Assistant Prosecutor is responsible for final decisions on PTI applications. Rejection letters are prepared by the paralegal and reviewed by the Director who also handles PTI appeals at the trial level.
The PTI Section is currently staffed by a Director, two paralegals and two clericals. The unit also handles applications for expungements of criminal records. All petitions for expungement are reviewed by a paralegal, who also obtains all necessary information to verify the statements in the petition. The Director reviews each file as well as the proposed orders.
In order to streamline operations, PTI decisions in cases involving charges of sexual assault, child abuse, arson, and domestic violence are made by the directors of those designated sections. In the past, the directors of these units offered recommendations but the final decision was made by the Director of PTI and the Executive Assistant Prosecutor who supervises PTI matters. If PTI applications are received with inadequate time to make decisions before the next court date, the courts are notified of what has occurred and are requested to grant additional time so that an informed determination can be made.
The Essex County PTI Section assigns a paralegal to perform extensive
research, from numerous sources such as municipal courts, the computer
system and old archived file cards, to obtain the necessary information
in expungement matters. As for significant crime problems, the most prevalent
in terms of PTI applications are receiving stolen property (stolen cars)
and CDS cases (usually cocaine or heroin, with fewer involving marijuana,
and a few involving Ecstasy). Attempts are made to tailor conditions of
PTI to the individual applicant to maximize his/her potential for rehabilitation.
This involves standard requirements such as obtaining a GED, or attending
CDS rehabilitation-as well as, in appropriate cases, requiring a defendant
to pay (even non-court-ordered) child support, or meet other obligations.
In 2011, the volume of applications to the PTI Unit remained extremely high as defendants filed a total of 412 applications for admission. Specifically, the Unit accepted 274 defendants into the program and rejected 138 applications.
One 2011 PTI case of note was the State v. Robert Gonzales, where the former Seton Hall University Head Basketball Coach was admitted to the PTI Program for various theft offenses arising from a shop-lifting incident at the Short Hills Mall. The applicant successfully completed the PTI program.
The Unit also processed 863 Expungement applications. A noteworthy 2011 Expungement case was the State v. Olivia Howard where the State successfully opposed the granting of an Expungement in a death by auto case.