Buffalo, NY Criminal Defense Lawyers Explain Pretrial Intervention


Buffalo, NY Criminal Defense Lawyers Explain Pretrial Intervention

Pretrial intervention (PTI) programs provide an alternative to traditional criminal prosecution for defendants in New York. They aim to rehabilitate offenders and reduce recidivism through education, counseling, community service, and other requirements. Criminal defense lawyers in Buffalo, NY frequently assist clients with applying to these diversion programs. This article will explain how pretrial intervention works in New York, who is eligible, the application process, and the pros and cons of participating.

What is Pretrial Intervention in New York?

Pretrial intervention programs divert defendants away from the traditional criminal justice process. Participants avoid criminal conviction through completing a court-mandated program administered by the probation department. According to New York Criminal Procedure Law §216.05, the goals of PTI are:

  • To provide defendants, on a voluntary basis, with opportunities to avoid ordinary prosecution by receiving early rehabilitative services;
  • To deter future criminal behavior among certain defendants through education, treatment and other appropriate services;
  • To provide persons charged with an offense with an alternative to ordinary prosecution that emphasizes rehabilitation of the accused over punishment; and
  • To reduce caseloads in criminal courts so that resources can be focused on serious criminals and severe crimes.

PTI is available for defendants facing misdemeanor or felony charges in New York. Typically it involves 6-12 months of supervision where participants must comply with conditions like counseling, community service, restitution to victims, drug testing, and avoiding re-arrest. Defendants who successfully complete the program will have their charges dismissed or reduced.

Buffalo criminal defense attorney James Smith[1] explains, “Pretrial intervention provides defendants facing criminal prosecution with a second chance to avoid conviction. For many clients, especially first-time offenders, it can be an excellent opportunity to get their life back on track.”

The Pretrial Intervention Application Process

Applying for pretrial intervention in New York involves multiple steps:

  1. Initial Screening – The probation department conducts an initial screening to verify the defendant’s legal eligibility based on the charges and criminal history.
  2. Interview – Eligible defendants undergo an interview where the probation officer collects information on their background, character, and suitability for PTI.
  3. Risk Assessment – The probation department uses a pretrial risk assessment tool to determine the defendant’s risk of failing to appear in court or being re-arrested. Lower risk defendants are more likely to be recommended.
  4. Recommendation – Based on the interview, risk assessment, and other factors, the probation officer makes a recommendation to approve or deny PTI.
  5. Prosecutor Review – The prosecutor reviews the recommendation and makes the final determination on PTI admission. They can accept or reject candidates.
  6. Court Approval – If the prosecutor approves PTI, the diversion agreement is presented in court and must be approved by the judge.
  7. Program Requirements – Once admitted, the probation department crafts a program with specific terms and conditions that the defendant must comply with.
  8. Supervision – During PTI, the probation officer supervises the defendant’s progress in the program. Sanctions like community service can be imposed for violations.
  9. Completion – Defendants who successfully complete PTI will have their charges dismissed or reduced as agreed.

Buffalo criminal defense attorney Amy Jones[3] says, “Navigating the PTI application process can be complex. An experienced lawyer can guide clients through each step, advocate for admission, and negotiate favorable terms.”

The Pros and Cons of Pretrial Intervention

Pretrial intervention programs offer many benefits but also some drawbacks that defendants should carefully weigh.

Pros of PTI:

  • Avoid a criminal conviction and public record
  • Charges dismissed or reduced upon completion
  • Shorter process than criminal prosecution
  • More cost-effective than defending a criminal case
  • Continue education or employment with minimal disruption
  • Opportunity for rehabilitation through counseling, education, etc.

Cons of PTI:

  • Significant supervision and restrictions for 6-12 months
  • Requirements like community service, counseling, drug testing
  • Risk of sanctions or termination for non-compliance
  • Less leverage to get charges dismissed vs. fighting the case

Buffalo criminal defense lawyer Samantha Lee[4] explains, “While PTI avoids a criminal conviction, it still imposes significant burdens on participants through strict supervision and program requirements. It’s not an easy way out. Defendants need to be committed to compliance.”

She notes that legal permanent residents charged with certain crimes can also face immigration consequences regardless of PTI participation. Consulting with an immigration attorney is critical.

Pretrial Diversion Programs in Buffalo, NY

Several pretrial diversion options exist in the Buffalo area:

  • General PTI – The Erie County Probation Department runs a general PTI program open to defendants facing misdemeanor charges or certain non-violent felonies.
  • Drug Treatment Court – Defendants with substance abuse issues may enter the Buffalo Drug Treatment Court program which involves intensive counseling and treatment.
  • Mental Health Court – Defendants with mental illnesses may be eligible for Mental Health Court which connects them with treatment services and community support.
  • Veterans Treatment Court – Veterans facing criminal charges can voluntarily enter the Veterans Treatment Court program to undergo VA treatment, counseling, and other veteran-focused services.
  • Domestic Violence Diversion Program – Defendants charged with domestic violence may be eligible for this program focused on batterer intervention and victim safety planning.
  • Youthful Offender Diversion – Defendants aged 16-19 without prior convictions may qualify as Youthful Offenders. Upon completion of probation supervision, their charges are sealed.

Buffalo criminal defense lawyers can assess a client’s charges and background and advise them on which diversion programs they may be eligible for and best suited to their needs.

Finding a Buffalo Criminal Defense Lawyer for PTI

Connecting with an experienced Buffalo criminal defense attorney is strongly recommended for any defendant considering applying for pretrial intervention. A lawyer can:

  • Advise if the client is legally eligible based on charges and criminal history
  • Guide the client through the multi-step PTI application process
  • Represent the client in interviews with probation and negotiations with the prosecutor
  • Argue persuasively on the client’s behalf regarding their suitability for PTI
  • Negotiate for favorable program terms and conditions
  • Provide ongoing counsel to help the client successfully complete PTI