In Louisiana, some individuals charged with DWIs may be eligible for a pre-trial intervention (or pre-trial diversion) program, which is offered by most District Attorney’s Offices and/or City Prosecutor’s Offices.
A pre-trial intervention (PTI) program is a way to provide alleged offenders with an opportunity to avoid the stigma of a criminal conviction on their record. The way this type of plan works is that the defendant enters into a contract with the District Attorney (DA) or Prosecutor’s Office, accepting responsibility for their actions. They are then given specific conditions to complete by a certain deadline. If they successfully complete the program, they will not have a conviction on their record.
Although the defendant does not have to plead guilty in court to enter into a PTI program, they may be required to admit guilt in the contract, which threatens the admission may be used against them if the PTI program is not completed satisfactorily. However, the prosecutor could face challenges when trying to submit the contract as evidence during trial (if the person fails to complete the PTI program).
Eligibility for a DWI Pre-Trial Intervention Program
Not all offenses qualify for consideration for a PTI program. Eligibility for PTI programs varies by Parish. It is typically reserved for first-time offenders, where there are no egregious facts (accident, injuries, etc.)
Conditions of a Pre-Trial Intervention Program
Once entered into the agreement for the PTI, the defendant must follow certain terms over a specific time period. Depending on the nature of the alleged offense, the program length can be 6 months to 2 years.
Typically, the requirements of a pre-trial intervention for a DWI include:
- Paying an enrollment fee (which varies between $500 and $2,000)
- Participating in a substance abuse evaluation, following all recommendations
- Enrolling in a MADD Victim Panel class
- Taking a driving course
- Completing community service hours
- Being subject to drug testing
- Installing an ignition interlock device on a vehicle
After Completing the Program
When the individual successfully completes their PTI program within the specified time, the prosecutor will dismiss the charges. That means there will be no conviction reported on your criminal record.However, the arrest will still appear, unless expunged.
The individual must petition to have the arrest removed through a process called, “expungement”. For non-DWI charges, expungement eligibility is immediate after PTI completion. Unfortunately, for DWI charges, Louisiana law requires a 5 year waiting period, from date of arrest, before petitioning the court for an expungement.
Should a Defendant Enter into a PTI Program?
Because pre-trial intervention programs allow individuals to avoid a conviction, they seem like an alluring offer. However, there is much to consider when deciding whether or not to enter into a PTI program.
Generally, a defendant will receive an invitation to the program shortly after their arrest. Often, these letters state that they must make a decision by a certain deadline; otherwise, they forfeit the opportunity to enroll.
Sometimes a person believes that by participating in a PTI program, they will avoid a driver’s license suspension. Although it’s true that they won’t lose their driving privileges due to a DWI conviction, that’s not the case for suspensions related to breath test failures or refusals. Only the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles has the power to halt that type of suspension. To challenge it, the individual must request an administrative driver’s license hearing, in writing, directed to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety within 30 days from the date of the arrest. Neither the DA nor the PTI can stop that process.
Unfortunately, because the individual might be scared into enrolling into a PTI program or tricked into believing it will save them from a driver’s license suspension, they enter into the program without first consulting an attorney. We recommend discussing the options with a skilled criminal defense lawyer who understands the process and potential outcomes. In some cases, a PTI program may be beneficial, but not in all. Deciding whether or not to participate requires thoroughly examining all the evidence and understanding the strength of the case.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Dewey & Braud Law, LLC
If you’ve been charged with a DWI in Baton Rouge, seek legal representation from our attorneys. Backed by over 15 years of combined legal experience, we know how to build defenses for these types of matters, and we can discuss your legal options with you.
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