Florida Attorneys Worry That Pre-Trial Intervention Might End

The legal community in Bay County is deeply divided on the issue of Pre-Trial Intervention.

Defense attorneys have said that they were told the program was being eliminated, however, 14th Judicial Circuit State Attorney, Glenn Hess, says this is not the case. According to him, "PTI is alive and well.”

PTI is a major tool in the Court system. The Florida Department of Correction operates PTI, which offers first time offenders a second chance. Speaking to, our Attorney, Albert J. Sauline, had the following to say, “PTI is an abbreviation for Pre-Trial Intervention and it's allowed under Florida statute 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.”

Pre-Trial Intervention is a form of deferred prosecution that separates first time, non-violent offenders into another program. Participants in the program can complete community service hours or even take classes that are relevant to their charge, such as drug abuse classes.

A major benefit of the PTI program is that it keeps those who aren’t career Criminals from building a felony record. The program is essentially a second chance for these first time offenders. However, backlogged case files and discussion circulating around the Courthouse have Criminal Defense Lawyers worried that PTI might be coming to an end. If PTI ends, it will take longer to process these cases and will also require more resources.

"Now these cases that should have been dismissed through Diversion, are taking the Prosecutor’s time away from focusing on the more serious offenses," said Attorney Sauline.

State Attorney, Glenn Hess, maintains that PTI is around to stay and won’t be leaving anytime soon. Speaking about the future of PTI, he said, “Frequently, the Defense Bar runs around kind of like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling, the sky is falling. That may be what we have here.”

According to Hess, “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.”

People with Second Degree Felonies or higher are not eligible for Pre-Trial Intervention, the same goes for anyone who commits a violent crime, any weapon charges, aggravated assault, and any crimes involving an organized scheme.

To learn more about pre-trial intervention, click here.

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