The last post on our Morristown criminal defense law blog looked at the case of a defendant charged with stealing based on evidence from a security camera. We discussed the viability of arguing innocence even in cases like this, given that the burden is on prosecutors to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, not the other way around. Another recent theft case here in Morris County illustrates a different approach defendants may wish to consider.
It started with a couple who met each other through an online dating system and went out for drinks together on a first date. They went back to her home together afterwards and, according to the woman, the man offered to take her dog out for a walk. She then claimed that she did some other things in another part of the home while he took the dog out.
Eventually, when she came back looking for her date, she claims that she realized he was gone along with the dog and her flat-screen television set as well, and she called the police. The dog and TV were recovered; the defendant says that his actions were misconstrued, that he was not trying to steal from the woman. Nevertheless, he was charged with two counts of theft.
The defendant plead not guilty to the theft charges, but if all goes according to plan, he will never have to stand trial, nor will the matter go down on his criminal record. In this case, the defendant was allowed to participate in New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention Program. The judge gave him a year of probation and 25 hours of community service; if he meets these conditions, charges are dismissed.
PTI is typically offered to nonviolent, first-time offenders as an alternative to traditional proceedings. It seeks to rehabilitate participants and deter them from further offenses. It is not the same as a reduced sentence — defendants do not plead guilty and there is no record of any conviction. There are, however, conditions which may include random urine tests, psychological evaluations and other monitoring procedures.
Some defendants may find that applying for PTI is the right decision for them as they seek to overcome criminal charges and get on with their lives. A legal professional can review the facts of a case and help formulate the best strategy for the defendant’s situation.