If you are charged with a misdemeanor or a qualifying third-degree felony in Florida, you could be eligible to have the charge diverted out away from the criminal courts and into a program called “Pretrial Intervention,” or PTI. There are PTI programs for misdemeanors and for non-violent 3rd-degree felonies. This blog post explains what the Pretrial Intervention Program is, how you get admitted into the program, what it takes to succeed in the PTI program, and what happens when you complete the program.
What is Pretrial Intervention?
The Pretrial Intervention or diversion program is designed to offer first offenders and non-violent third-degree felonies an opportunity to avoid a criminal conviction and to atone for their offense by participating in rehabilitative and character-building exercises like community service, counseling, and treatment for underlying issues that may have contributed to the conduct leading to the criminal charge. People with no more than three prior non-violent misdemeanor convictions may also qualify for the program.
The State’s Attorney’s Office operates the Pretrial Intervention program. A defendant’s admission into the program is a decision entirely at the discretion of the prosecutor. If a first offender is charged with an eligible offense, their lawyer can file a formal request for the client to be allowed to participate in the PTI program. The PTI program is not an option once your counsel files adversarial pretrial motions or discovery requests.
What Are the Benefits of the Pretrial Intervention Program?
In Florida, the law makes expunging a criminal conviction very difficult. Once someone suffers a Florida conviction, in most cases, the record will remain available to any member of the public who looks up the defendant’s name. Not only are your friends and relatives (including your children) able to see the records, but prospective employers, landlords, mortgage loan officers, credit card companies, and every other person with whom you deal for decades into your future.
In most cases, when an eligible person is brought before the courts for the first time and charged with a qualifying offense, their best chance of escaping any conviction is to seek admission into the PTI program.
Once a PTI program participant successfully completes the program, the state prosecutor will dismiss the charges lodged against them, and the records can be expunged.
The PTI process also involves less expensive and offers more certainty than risking a criminal trial.
If a defendant fails to comply with the program’s requirements, their case goes back into the criminal courts for further prosecution.
Who Is Eligible for Pretrial Intervention in Florida?
First offenders charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor or nonviolent third-degree felony can apply for Florida’s PTI program. Defendants who have no more than three prior nonviolent misdemeanor arrests or convictions can qualify for the PTI program. The felony PTI program is overseen by the Department of Corrections and works much like a year-long probation period.
The felony PTI program will NOT permit people in the following circumstances into the program:
- Defendants with multiple charges arising from separate transactions are barred from PTI,
- Persons charged with drug dealing or who possess drugs in a quantity not indicative of personal use are not accepted,
- Third-degree felonies involving gambling, weapons, and firearms, and prostitution, are barred,
- Any person charged with a crime in which the victim actual loss exceeds $5,000 is barred unless the victim approves of the defendant’s admission into PTI, and restitution can be made within 12 months,
- Organized fraud crimes are barred,
- Defendants charged with flight are also not permitted into the PTI program,
- Persons indicted on third-degree felonies are not admitted,
- Third-degree felonies involving abuse of a minor child are barred,
- Defendants in possession of “boost bags” or anti-shoplifting control devices are barred,
- Attempted burglary of a residence is a barred offense
- Vending, forging, or counterfeiting label offenses are barred,
- DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, and driving after a DUI license suspension are also barred.
When a defendant applies for admission into the PTI program, the alleged victim must approve their entry into the program.
How Do You Get Accepted Into the Pretrial Intervention Program?
To be admitted into the PTI program, defendants must apply within 45 days of their arraignment on the charge. The PTI program authorities will review the defendant’s application and render a decision between 30 and 90 days.
But applying by submitting the required documents can sometimes be too passive a method of seeking admission if someone is intent on getting into the PTI program. Prosecutors are busy with many cases, and some are hesitant to agree to let defendants into the program.
Experienced criminal defense lawyers can be instrumental in winning their client’s admission into the PTI program. A defense lawyer can contact the prosecutor to advocate for their client’s acceptance. By speaking directly with a case prosecutor, the lawyer can fill them in on compelling details about their client’s life, their personal challenges, addictions, traumatic experiences, or other facts that may impress the prosecutor.
In addition to helping a client get into the PTI program, a skilled lawyer can offer support services to help the defendant succeed in the program.
You Do Not Have to Plead Guilty to Enter Into Florida’s Pretrial Intervention Program
If you participate in the PTI program, you do not have to plead guilty to the charge, unless you are not a Florida resident. An out-of-state defendant will be required to enter a guilty plea.
PTI applicants are required to waive their right to a speedy trial and waive the statute of limitations defense.
Drug Charges in Florida’s Pretrial Intervention
Third-degree drug felonies qualify for the PTI program if they do not involve allegations of drug dealing or possession with intent to deliver. PTI drug cases will require the defendant to submit to random urine screening for drugs. If they suffer from a substance use disorder, they will need to engage in counseling and appropriate treatment.
A positive drug screen will cause a PTI participant to be expelled from the program, and the case will automatically be referred to the Florida Drug Court in their county.
Learn More > Sentencing Alternatives to Jail
Find Out More About Florida’s Pretrial Intervention Diversion Program
Find out if you are eligible for Florida’s Pretrial Intervention Diversion Program by contacting our experienced law firm at Stechschulte Nell. We are ready to help mitigate the charges you face. Call 813-280-1244 today.