Pretrial Intervention (PTI) in Miami-Dade County is reserved for first-time offenders charged with typically non-violent felonies. Usually, these are third-degree felonies. However, some exceptions can be made for second-degree felonies and even violent felonies, provided the alleged victim agrees.
PTI does not require the participant to plead guilty to a crime. The participant must agree to fulfill the conditions of the program and in about six months, the state will dismiss the charges.
These offenses may include grand theft, or any type of property crime where the alleged victim has sustained damage or loss.
In Miami-Dade County, the total amount owed to the alleged victim(s) - also known as restitution - must be $5,000 or less. That means that if the total amount of restitution is over $5,000, if you are otherwise eligible for PTI, you must pay the total down to a balance of $5,000 before you can enter the program.
These rules are inflexible and are in place as an incentive to a) provide PTI to defendants will relatively low restitution amounts and b) provide an incentive for defendants to pay their their restitution balances quickly.
As a Miami criminal attorney who once worked as an assistant state attorney in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, I understand that this rule can prove costly to those who are eligible for PTI and want to participate, but have restitution amounts that exceed $5,000.
It's important to discuss with your attorney whether paying your restitution amount down to $5,000 is even possible. Let's say your restitution amount is $10,000. That would mean that before you can even qualify for PTI, you must pay the alleged victim $5,000 upfront. Can that be done? What if your restitution is $20,000 or even more than that?
The alternative to PTI is typically probation. However, if you are accused of public assistance fraud, a withhold of adjudication to that charge would prevent you from being able to seal the record. Also, if you are not a U.S. citizen, a withhold of adjudication to any "crime involving moral turpitude," such as grand theft, could result in your being removed from the United States.
PTI is a good thing in many instances but bear in mind the cost. However, when faced with the consequences of a permanent criminal record or deportation, it may be in your best interest to come up with the money and pay your balance down so that you can participate in the program and enjoy the benefit of a dismissal.
Eric Matheny is a Miami-Dade criminal attorney serving clients throughout the county. Attorney Eric Matheny represents clients charged with all misdemeanor and felony offenses.