The Spotlight On Pre-Trial Intervention And Domestic Violence – Was Ray Rice’s Case Handled Properly?

178955798-300x199Much has been said about the graphic video recently released showing a physical altercation in an Atlantic City casino elevator last February between the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his wife, Janay Rice – but many are left scratching their heads as to why he’s not in jail after such an attack.  Did Rice get the deal of a lifetime?  Was his case mishandled by an office that may have been starstruck or under pressure not to prosecute?  Should those charged with domestic violence be treated differently than those charged with other offenses?  Most of the reporters and commentators discussing Ray Rice’s legal and professional troubles lack any knowledge of the law, let alone knowledge of New Jersey’s unique criminal code and the portions of it that resulted in Rice’s acceptance into a probationary program that eventually could lead to the dismissal of the charge against him.

The program Rice was accepted to last May, called Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI), takes a case out of the usual course of prosecution.  Instead, individuals who meet certain criteria set by New Jersey statute can complete a one to three-year term of probation.  This might include conditions such as regular reporting to a probation officer, counseling, payment of fines or compensation to the victim, and random urine screens to check for use of illegal substances.  Of course, PTI also requires that the individual remain law-abiding and arrest-free during the term of probation.  The conditions of PTI are flexible and are structured based on the individual and the offense charged.  If the conditions are fulfilled – essentially, if the person does not “mess up” – the charge is dismissed. The individual thus avoids a conviction, a criminal record, and time behind bars.  Generally, PTI is not available to those charged with violent offenses, especially in the first and second-degree range – the most serious offenses.

So, how did Ray Rice avoid going to jail after knocking his wife unconscious?  It is important to note that Rice was charged with third-degree aggravated assault based on the facts and circumstances, including the severity of injury to the victim. This is not the type of charge that automatically prevents a person from acceptance into PTI.  Additionally, Rice has no criminal history and has never used any other diversionary program available in the New Jersey courts.  Finally, Rice’s wife, Janay, made it clear to prosecutors that she did not want Rice prosecuted for what happened – and a victim’s wishes must be taken into consideration in criminal matters pursuant to the New Jersey Crime Victims Bill of Rights.  PTI is a highly discretionary program, meaning that the prosecutors and PTI directors have great leeway in dealing with applications on an individualized, case-by-case basis.  There are a number of guidelines for prosecutors and those who handle PTI cases to follow, but ultimately, if the guidelines don’t require an outright rejection, there is no clear-cut “right” or “wrong” person for PTI.  This is why the right criminal defense lawyer can help tremendously with convincing prosecutors and PTI personnel that a person would be successful in PTI.

Although those who are unfamiliar with the law might look at a case like Rice’s and feel moral outrage or upset about PTI’s place in New Jersey’s criminal justice system, it is important to remember that our elected lawmakers implemented the program and the guidelines that govern it.  In the court of public opinion and the media, Rice has already been judged to be “guilty.”  He has been indefinitely suspended from the NFL.  Domestic violence is a hot-button issue and Rice’s case, especially with the graphic video accompanying it, is a highly provocative case that causes strong emotional reactions in many people.  At this point in time, however, it doesn’t seem that his case was deliberately mishandled.  PTI gives people who are generally law abiding citizens the chance to keep a clean record and to move on with their lives.  Our law allows for this limited type of “second chance” and the attorneys with our firm have been successful in convincing prosecutors to allow our clients into PTI.

New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with an indictable offense, call us for a free consultation and let us walk you through an explanation of whether you qualify for PTI and, if not, how we can defend you in another way.  We can also help you if you applied for PTI and were rejected.  We have helped many people successfully gain entry into the program who now have no criminal record and have been given a second chance.  In addition to Camden County, we also serve Atlantic County, Gloucester County, Burlington County, Cape May County and Cumberland County.

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Matthew V. Portella

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The Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC. is a full service law firm where attorneys with their extensive experience provide strong & Aggressive defense against DWI/DUI & Criminal cases.