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Understanding Florida’s Pre-Trial Intervention Program
The Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI) is a diversion program available to some alleged felony offenders that, if successfully completed, results in the criminal charge being dismissed.
What is Pretrial Intervention?
The PTI program is administered by the State of Florida through the Department of Corrections. Eligible individuals who enter into a PTI agreement will be required to participate in a supervised program similar to probation, except at the end of the intervention term, if all conditions are successfully completed, the felony charge will be dismissed. Typical conditions of PTI supervision require monthly reporting, payment of supervision fees, community service and appropriate counseling or treatment if deemed necessary after an evaluation. PTI agreements can be tailored to the needs of particular offenders depending on the nature of the alleged criminal activity. Florida’s PTI program provides eligible individuals charged with a crime an opportunity to be diverted from traditional criminal “justice” sentencing alternatives and the ability to avoid a record of a criminal conviction and the potential of jail or prison sentences.
Who Is Eligible for Pretrial Intervention?
Florida Statute Section 948.08 states that, “Any first offender, or any person previously convicted of not more than one nonviolent misdemeanor, who is charged with any misdemeanor or felony of the third degree is eligible for release to the pretrial intervention program on the approval of the administrator of the program and the consent of the victim, the state attorney, and the judge who presided at the initial appearance hearing of the offender." By statute, the victim, prosecutor or Judge have the power to prevent participation in PTI.
There are specific stipulations in Florida Statutes Section 948.08 that deal with Pretrial Intervention Program eligibility for controlled substance and drug offenders. The Statute states, “a person who is charged with a felony of the second or third degree for purchase or possession of a controlled substance …or obtaining a prescription by fraud; who has not been charged with a crime involving violence…and who has not previously been convicted of a felony nor been admitted to a felony pretrial program referred to in this section is eligible for voluntary admission into a pretrial substance abuse education and treatment intervention program…"
Typically, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney must examine the allegations and background of the alleged offender to determine if one is statutorily eligible to participate in PTI. If eligible, the criminal defense lawyer may negotiate with the prosecutor in order to get a defendant successfully placed into a Pretrial Intervention Program. Some examples of third degree felony charges that might be eligible for the pretrial intervention alternative would include grand theft, burglary of a business or conveyance, criminal mischief, felony worthless check, uttering a forgery, felony fraud, embezzlement and felony drug possession. See example of typical PTI agreement in the 8th Judicial Circuit.
Though not specifically authorized by statute, some prosecutors require defendants to sign sworn admissions or confessions of guilt to the crime they are charged with in order to gain entry into the PTI program. The legality of this practice and the admissibility of such admissions have not, as of the date of this writing, been determined by Florida appellate courts.
Benefits of the Pretrial Intervention Program:
• Avoid the stress and cost of a criminal trial
• Avoid a potential criminal conviction
• Avoid a potential permanent criminal record
• Receive counseling or psychological treatment
• Reduced recidivism rates for those who successfully complete PTI
• May have criminal record of arrest expunged, if otherwise eligible
Individuals who successfully complete a Pretrial Intervention Program will have their criminal charges dismissed. It is important to understand that even though your criminal charges may be dismissed, it does not mean that the records have been expunged. The criminal history records regarding the arrest will still exist, but should indicate that the criminal charges were dismissed. Expunging your criminal record entirely in Florida is a separate process that may be initiated after you have completed a Pretrial Intervention Program. See Expungement of Criminal History Records.
What Happens Upon a Violation of PTI:
If one violates the terms of a PTI agreement, the prosecutor can and most often will remove the person from the program. Once removed from a pretrial intervention program, prosecution is re-initiated. This means the individual will face the original charges, including the original potential penalties and consequences. Obviously, the prosecutor and the Judge will view a removal from PTI supervision negatively. In some cases a violation of PTI may be viewed as an indication that a person is not a suitable candidate for supervision within the community. If one violates PTI, the bottom line is that the accused person will again face prosecution, the potential of a criminal conviction and sentencing in criminal court.