Over the past few weeks the NFL has been forced to deal with a number of issues concerning players who have run afoul of the law. One such player is the Baltimore Raven’s running back Ray Rice. He was recently charged with assaulting his then fiancé, in an elevator in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was arrested and charged with Aggravated Assault. Rice’s criminal lawyer and the Atlantic City Prosecutor’s Office worked out a plea agreement, whereby he was allowed to enter the Pre-Trial Intervention program. What is Pre-Trial Intervention and was it appropriate in the Ray Rice case?
Pre-Trial Intervention (“PTI”) is a diversionary program, which typically results in twelve months of probation. If a defendant completes probation and remains out of trouble, all charges are dismissed at the end of the twelve months. If the defendant fails to successfully complete probation or if he/she is arrested again, PTI will be terminated and the defendant will face the original charges. Typically, only a defendant without a criminal history and who has not been in a diversionary program in the past is eligible.
In the Rice case, PTI was a logical plea option because Ray Rice had no prior criminal convictions. As a Union County Criminal Defense Attorney, I represent defendants charged with domestic violence on regular basis. Often, these defendants are facing Aggravated Assault charges. In trying to resolve these matters a dismissal is always the starting point. More often than not, the prosecutor will not agree to a dismissal, in which case I will try and negotiate a PTI plea. If the client is PTI eligible, the prosecutor will typically agree to a PTI plea. However, if the alleged act of domestic violence is considered too violent many prosecutors will not agree to PTI.
By way of example, I recently represented a gentleman who was charged with Aggravated Assault for causing a motor vehicle accident in Elizabeth NJ, serving as his criminal lawyer. He was accused of getting into an argument with his girlfriend and grabbing the steering wheel of the car forcing it into a pole. The girlfriend suffered a broken nose and was hospitalized. In that case, the prosecutor took the position that the underlying allegation was too violent to allow the defendant the benefit of PTI. When the matter was discussed in Chambers, it became clear that the Judge was of the same opinion as the Assistant Prosecutor. Ultimately, the client pled guilty to a lesser form of Aggravated Assault and was placed on probation.
From my experience as a criminal lawyer in New Jersey, Ray Rice was extremely lucky to get PTI. I strongly believe that he would not have been offered the option of PTI, if the videotape of what happened inside the elevator had been public at the time. The video evidence of him knocking out his fiancé and allowing her to lie on the elevator floor unconscious would have undermined the plea. The video would have provided the prosecutor the ammunition he/she needed to object to the PTI application on the grounds that the underlying act of domestic violence was too violent. In addition, public pressure would have dictated that his plea agreement result in a felony conviction. It is unclear if the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office had a copy of the videotape at the time Ray Rice was offered PTI. If the video was available, then I am shocked the prosecutor agreed to PTI. If video was not available, one is left to ask why not?
The legal firm of Rispoli & Borneo, P.C. has successfully represented many criminal law cases. Our attorneys are here to help. Contact Rispoli & Borneo, P.C. today for a free initial consultation.