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Domestic Violence and Pre-Trial Intervention

Pre-Trial Intervention Rules Changed for Domestic Violence Offenses, Guilty Plea Now Required

The law changed in August of 2015 and quietly (but dramatically) altered the rules of the Pre-trial intervention program in New Jersey.

In the aftermath of the Ray Rice case, the legislature quickly passed new laws that require, among other things, that a defendant who is charged with committing an act of domestic violence to plead guilty in order to be admitted into the Pre-trial intervention program. This is a dramatic departure from the rules of the program and also case law. Prior to this, it was illegal to make admission into the program contingent on a guilty plea.

This does not mean that the charge will not be dismissed at a later date, as in a no plea pti, but if the defendant were to violate the terms of the Pti, then the conviction would already be entered. Contrast that with the traditional Pti where there is no conviction, even if there is a violation. If the state wanted a conviction following a violation, then the State would be held to its burden.

Also, the conviction would be in the system until the end of the Pti, meaning it would show up as a guilty plea until it was dismissed, which could be for a year or more. In addition, the decision to admit will be more closely scrutinized as compared with the same offenses committed during a stranger on stranger encounter.

More importantly, as far as I'm concerned, is the defendant has to admit his guilt in court. Pti was traditionally a way to avoid doing this, and a way for people who were on the fence about their guilt to avoid pleading guilty and maintain that innocence without having to risk a trial.

Committing an act of domestic violence does not always mean being physically violent. In order for a crime to be considered an act of domestic violence, it must meet certain criteria. Under most circumstances, this will mean that the State must establish that there was a dating or family relationship between the parties. Secondly, the defendant must have committed a predicate act of domestic violence. These crimes are found under 2C:25-19 and they are:

  1. Homicide N.J.S.2C:11-1 et seq.
  2. Assault N.J.S.2C:12-1
  3. Terroristic threats N.J.S.2C:12-3
  4. Kidnapping N.J.S.2C:13-1
  5. Criminal restraint N.J.S.2C:13-2
  6. False imprisonment N.J.S.2C:13-3
  7. Sexual assault N.J.S.2C:14-2
  8. Criminal sexual contact N.J.S.2C:14-3
  9. Lewdness N.J.S.2C:14-4
  10. Criminal mischief N.J.S.2C:17-3
  11. Burglary N.J.S.2C:18-2
  12. Criminal trespass N.J.S.2C:18-3
  13. Harassment N.J.S.2C:33-4
  14. Stalking P.L.1992, c.209 (C.2C:12-10)

These are the same predicate offenses that a court must determine occurred during a Final Restraining Order Hearing.

If you have been charged with a domestic violence related offense and are wondering if this new law may affect you, we can be reached to discuss the facts of your case and the options you may have.

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