There is a deep division in the Bay County legal community regarding the future of pre-trial intervention.
Defense attorney’s said they were told the program was being eliminated but that seems to not be the case. “PTI is alive and well,” said 14th Judicial Circuit State Attorney, Glenn Hess.
PTI is a crucial tool in the court system. It’s operated by the Florida Department of Corrections with a sole purpose of affording first time offenders a second chance.
“PTI is an abbreviation for pre-trial intervention and it’s allowed under Florida statue for a person who has very minimal criminal history if any at all. If a person commits a crime and they qualify for PTI… the State Attorney and the Defendant will enter into an agreement where the state will drop all charges as long as the defendant successfully completes the program,” said Defense Attorney, Al Sauline.
It’s a form of deferred prosecution that diverts first time, non-violent offenders to another program. The program can consist of community service hours, cost of supervision for the program, or even require a person to take classes that are relevant to their charge such as drug abuse classes.
The PTI program would keep people who aren’t career criminals from developing a felony record. It would act as a second chance for these first time offenders. However, discussion around the courthouse and seemingly backlogged case files have defense attorneys concerned that PTI will soon be no more. Without PTI, cases will take longer to process and ultimately result in the use of more resources on both sides.
“Now these cases that should have been dismissed through diversion, are taking the prosecutors time away from focusing on the more serious offenses,” said Sauline.
When asked about the future of PTI, State Attorney, Glenn Hess, said PTI is around to stay, and is not going anywhere. Hess said the confusion may be coming from the new way they apply it.
“Frequently, the defense board runs around kind of like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling the sky is falling. That may be what we have here,” said Hess. The state is now looking at eligibility for PTI first before charging.
“We still have PTI, what has happened is, we’ve moved the decisions for those who are eligible for PTI forward in the process. We’re being encouraged to help the jail and the courts to get those people who are third degree felons, non-violent out sooner so that the jail overcrowding population is resolved to some degree,” said Hess.
People who are not eligible for Pre-Trial Intervention include those with a felony of second degree or higher, those who commit any type of violent crime, any weapon charges, aggravated assault and any crimes indicative of an organized scheme.
Here is an example of a PTI eligibility form.
Hess said by looking at eligibility first, time and resources are being saved for other cases. “There is pre-filing and there is post-filing. What we’ve told our attorneys to do is to take PTI and move it before they file that information. When they review a file and it looks like this is a good candidate to put on PTI, we try to get that person enlisted in PTI before we make a charging decision,” said Hess.
Hess went on to say that the state and the defense both want the same thing. They want to focus their efforts and resources on more serious offenders rather than crowding the docket.
“We have an overcrowding problem, we have a docket problem. PTI is a way for us to resolve those problems quickly and move onto those cases that are really important. We would like to divert those people who have just made a mistake. We want to concentrate on those people who make crime a career,” said Hess.
PTI is a chance to rectify the problem and have a successful life afterwards, with no criminal record. “It’s a legislative creature, legislature created it and encourages the use of PTI. The legislature is encouraging us to use any number of diversion programs,” said Hess.
Other states have forms of deferred prosecution but PTI or Pre-Trial Intervention is the term used here specifically in the state of Florida.
Below are the Year to Date Totals (January 1, 2018 – June 30, 2018) of PTI participants versus the amount of people who have completed the program:
Felony PTI Program:
The total number of defendants who have enrolled in the program is 188.
The total number of defendants who have successfully completed the program is 75.
Misdemeanor PTI Program:
The total number of defendants who have enrolled in the program is 190.
The total number of defendants who have successfully completed the program is 96.
The total number of defendants who have enrolled in the program is 626.
The total number of defendants who have successfully completed the program is 401.
Worthless Check Diversion Program:
The total number of defendants who have enrolled in the program is 31.
The total number of defendants who have successfully completed the program is 4.
Drug Court Program (Adult):
The total number of defendants who have enrolled in the program is 49.
The total number of defendants who have completed the program is 5.
Drug Court Program (Juvenile):
The total number of defendants who have enrolled in the program is 0.
The total number of defendants who have completed the program is 0.
Therapeutic Justice Court Program:
There are currently 6 defendants enrolled in this program.
The total number of defendants who have completed the program is 2.
*This program usually will take a year to complete, it began on November 2015.