Jail as a Condition of PTI (Part 4)

by | Feb 3, 2021 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Appellate Division continued in relevant part: Our case law is further instructive on the policy goals of PTI. PTI “is designed ‘to assist in the rehabilitation of worthy defendants, and, in the process, to spare them the rigors of the criminal justice system.'” State v. Randall (App. Div. 2010). PTI is an “alternative to the traditional system of prosecuting and incarcerating criminal suspects.” State v. Leonardis (1976). The program is meant to “avoid criminal prosecution.” Although not expressly forbidden, it is illogical to conclude that application of these legislative goals would be furthered by allowing the prosecutor to impose a jail term as a condition for PTI admission.

Our research reveals one published decision involving jail time as part of entry into PTI. In State v. Mosner (App. Div. 2009), the defendant was charged with two fourth-degree criminal offenses and five motor vehicle offenses in connection with a hit-and-run snowmobile accident that seriously injured a teenage boy. The defendant’s PTI application was rejected when he refused to plead guilty to the five motor vehicle charges, one of which required a mandatory 180-day jail term. After being found guilty on all charges, he appealed arguing he was improperly denied admittance into PTI. We disagreed, ruling the prosecutor could condition defendant’s PTI admission on guilty pleas to all the motor vehicle offenses to achieve the purpose of the PTI statute.

Mosner, however, is distinguishable. There, the defendant was required to plead to a motor vehicle offense that included a mandatory jail term. In this case, the Prosecutor ‘s Office imposed a condition of PTI admission that was not based on any determination of guilt. Just as important, the 180-day jail term in Mosner was required by statute, whereas here, the condition of jail time was arbitrarily set by the Prosecutor’s Office without any mandatory statutory framework.

The use of the term “arbitrarily”, signals that the panel is going to side with the defendants here. To overcome a PTI rejection, an appellant must demonstrate a “gross and patent abuse of discretion” by the prosecutor’s office. The word “arbitrary” is often used to describe such an abuse of discretion.