Pre-Trial Intervention in South Carolina

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16259255154_428cf00814_bWhat is pretrial intervention or “PTI”? 

Pretrial intervention, often referred to as “PTI,” is a diversionary program utilized by South Carolina’s circuit solicitors’ offices to afford folks with little to no prior criminal history the opportunity to have their charges dismissed and expunged.

PTI is governed by South Carolina Code Section 17-22-10, et seq.  The Code affords each circuit solicitor the freedom to establish pretrial intervention programs, providing the solicitors with a great deal of discretion in the establishment, purpose, and maintenance of each circuit’s diversionary program. 

What is the benefit of PTI?

Pretrial intervention affords folks accused of committing criminal acts the opportunity to address the charge with a diversionary program that will ultimately, if successful, result in the dismissal of the pending warrant and the expungement of the charge from the offender’s criminal history.  If you are concerned that a criminal charge and conviction could detrimentally affect your professional and personal life, then you may want to consider PTI as an option to avoid the negative effects associated with a criminal conviction.

What do you do on PTI?

The pretrial programs vary from circuit to circuit, and often each program is designed to address the issues that lead to the accused’s original arrest.  Crimes related to drug use and abuse are often addressed in PTI with counseling and treatment.  Crimes related to anger are often addressed with anger management or batterer’s treatment.  When a victim is owed restitution, the successful repayment of that restitution will be made an element of the PTI program.  Ultimately, the specifics of an accused’s PTI program are in the discretion of the folks entrusted to operate the program.

Who is eligible for PTI?

While the Code of Laws ensures that each solicitor has a great deal of discretion in determining how to run PTI and who to admit, the law specifically prohibits certain folks from being admitted in to the program.  Those ineligible for PTI include:

  • A person previously accepted into PTI; or
  • A person charged with:
    • Blackmail;
    • DUI or DUAC;
    • Traffic offenses punishable only by fine or loss of points;
    • Fish, game, wildlife, or commercial fishery offenses punishable by a loss of eighteen points;
    • Domestic violence, if the person has previously been convicted of domestic violence; or
    • A violent crime as defined by South Carolina Code Section 16-1-60.

Ultimately, though, because each solicitor’s discretion is paramount when it comes to the admission of an individual in to PTI, a person eligible for the program is not guaranteed admission.  It has to be offered by the State.  So, just because you are charged with domestic violence and you have not been previously convicted of domestic violence, you are not ensured admission in to the program.  Each solicitor’s office has its own policy for who can be admitted to PTI and who is forbidden from entering the program.

What are violent crimes?

Crimes of violence are defined by the South Carolina Code of Laws and include murder, criminal sexual conduct in the first and second degrees, criminal sexual conduct with a minor, voluntary manslaughter, armed robbery, carjacking, drug trafficking, arson in the first and second degrees, assault and battery by mob resulting in death, manufacturing methamphetamine, burglary in the first degree, burglary in the second degree pursuant to 16-11-312(B), homicide by child abuse, neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in death or great bodily injury, and a great many other criminal offenses.  The full list of charges is provided in South Carolina Code Section 16-1-60.

Can violent crimes ever be put in PTI?

Pursuant to the pretrial intervention statute, violent crimes are not eligible for PTI.  However, each circuit solicitor has a great deal of discretion with regards to how their programs are operated.  That means in some circuits, a solicitor can and may “reduce” a violent crime to a non-violent one for the purposes of entry into PTI. 

By way of example, let us say that Young Man is charged with Burglary in the First Degree for breaking in to a residence and stealing a firearm, thus “arming himself” in the act of Burglary.  Normally, as Burglary in the First Degree is a violent crime, he would be ineligible for PTI.  However, if Young Man has no prior record, and his defense attorney persuades the prosecutor to offer him PTI, then he could be admitted into PTI on the “reduced” charge of Burglary in the Second Degree (Non-Violent) or Burglary in the Third Degree.  If Young Man successfully completes the program, then his charge would be dismissed, and he could have the original charge expunged.  However, if he fails out of the program, then his original charge of Burglary in the First Degree would remain pending in General Sessions court, awaiting prosecution.

What happens if I fail out of PTI?

Consider PTI a gift.  But for the wisdom of our legislature and the permission of our prosecutors, the “second chance” that is PTI would not be available.  So, if you are in the program, then do everything you can to successfully complete it.

That having been said, if you find yourself in a position where you have been admitted to PTI and subsequently terminated from the program, then your charge will be restored in General Sessions and the case prosecuted.  You are not guaranteed an offer from the prosecutor after you fail out of PTI.  He or she may very well decide to put your case on the trial docket if you are kicked out of the program.  So, be mindful of that fact when interacting with the folks who administer and are responsible for your successful completion of the program.

If I am PTI eligible, then why do I need a lawyer?

Just because you are eligible for PTI, the prosecutor is not required to offer the program to you.  Furthermore, just because you have been offered PTI does not mean that PTI is the best resolution for your particular charge.  You need an experienced attorney like the attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A., to explain to the prosecutor why you would be a good candidate for PTI and to determine whether “using” your one opportunity for PTI is the best decision for your particular charge.  There may be extenuating circumstances that the prosecutor needs to consider, or the case may have weaknesses that the prosecutor would take in to consideration in determining whether to offer you PTI.  Do not assume that because you are in General Sessions on your first offense that you will be admitted to PTI.  Get an attorney, have him investigate the case, and let him inform you of your options.  Folks seldom regret the things they do.  It is the things they do not do that that they cannot forget.  Do not think back on your life and regret the decision not to hire an attorney. 

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