Arrested for the first time? You might just get a mulligan.
In the game of golf, even the best golfers screw up and hit a terrible shot. As long it’s not the PGA tour, players often are allowed to take a “mulligan” which is simply a chance to retake the shot without their score being ruined - a way to proceed as if the bad shot never happened. Well, like golf, good people screw up in life too. And unfortunately, for some, they end up arrested with a criminal charge. Unlike golf, however, this kind of screw-up can have long-lasting, negative ramifications to one's life. There is however good news - the State of South Carolina offers some of these people a “mulligan” just like in golf - a chance to start over and wipe the record clean. This “mulligan” offered by the State is called the Pre-Trial Intervention program (or PTI for short).
The PTI program requires eligible participants to perform some community service work, receive individual or group counseling, and pay restitution to the victim if applicable in exchange for a DISMISSAL of the charges and the chance to apply for an expungement. For anyone who finds themselves in the unfortunate position of having been arrested for a non-violent crime, PTI can be a great opportunity to start over. Not a bad deal, huh? So how do you know if you are eligible for PTI? Here are the general requirements -
GENERAL ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS***:
Your charge must be non-violent.
No significant prior criminal history.
You’ve never done PTI in the past.
If you beat up your grandmother or have a record as long as your forearm, you’re probably not getting in. And remember, you only get one bite at the apple.
*** These requirements are not always black-and-white. Don’t just assume you are ineligible. If your case is a close-call, an attorney may still be able to get you in.
So you think you might be eligible? You then need to apply. Here’s how -
HOW TO APPLY IN GREENVILLE COUNTY:
1. Apply in person at the Greenville County Courthouse on 305 E. North St., Suite 115, Greenville, SC 29601
a. Applications are accepted Monday – Friday from 9 am - 12 pm and 2 pm - 4 pm.
Unfortunate but necessary tip of the day: DON’T wear your favorite marijuana leaf T-shirt when you go to apply (or for any other appearances at the courthouse). Your stoner friend who drove you to the courthouse might think it’s cool but your counselor- you know the one who has TONS of control over your future - yeah, she won’t think it’s cool. So don’t do something stupid to hurt your chances. Dress appropriately.
2. You must present all of the items listed below at the time of application:
Picture Identification such as a driver’s license, driver’s permit, passport, state identification, school identification, or work identification. No, your Harry Potter fan club membership card is not acceptable.
Social Security Card - If you do not have your social security card, you will need to contact the Social Security Administration to apply for a new card. Please ask for a print out that will verify your name and social security number. The nearest Social Security Administration Offices are located at 319 Pelham Road, Greenville, SC or 3420 Clemson Blvd, Anderson, SC. The office hours are Monday-Friday 9 am – 4 pm.
Warrant or ticket - You should’ve have received a copy of this at the time of your arrest. If you’ve lost it, you need to contact the Magistrate or Municipal Court to get a copy. If your charges are in General Sessions, notify the receptionist at the time of application that you do not have the ticket or the warrant. Your application can not be processed without a copy of the ticket or warrant. If you received a referral form from Magistrate or Municipal Court, you must present the referral from at the time of application.
Money order or cashier’s check for $100.00 - Cash, personal checks, credit cards, goats, Chucky Cheese tokens and copper from your neighbor’s HVAC system are not accepted as forms of payment.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Q: How long will it take before I know if my case has been accepted into PTI?
A: Usually 4-6 weeks but it can take longer if your case is a bit more complicated.
Q: How will I know if I’m accepted or not?
A: A letter will be sent to the mailing address you provided to the PTI office and it will tell you when to appear for your orientation. Please show up! If you fail to, your case will be returned to court for prosecution and you’ve just screwed up a very good opportunity. Don’t be that slack. If you’re having difficulties of any kind, contact the PTI office and let them know. They’ll try to work with you. But not showing up or calling is the worse thing you can do. And let them know if you change your address after you have applied to the program. If they don’t know where you are, they can’t notify you.
Q: How much does it cost if my case is accepted?
A: $250. Due AT THE START OF ORIENTATION. There are no payment or K-mart layaway plans so start saving ASAP!
Q: Ouch! My PTI application was rejected - now what?
A: Your case goes back to the Magistrate/Municipal Court or General Sessions.
IMPORTANT: Consider having an attorney look at your case. Exceptions are made to get people into PTI who have been rejected or who normally might not qualify. As a prosecutor for 7 years, I saw this happen multiple times.
In any case, make sure that you contact the court where your charge originated to find out your new court date. Don’t wait. The State can get a bench warrant for your arrest if you fail to show for court!
Q: If I’m rejected, can I get my $100 application fee back?
A: Money back from the government? Yeah, right. No, you’re not getting your money back. However, the PTI office does a good job of weeding people out before they apply. You can also run a criminal history check if you are unsure about your criminal background.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT CRIMINAL BACKGROUND REPORTS: As a prosecutor, I ran across tons and tons of mistakes in these reports. If you run your criminal report and think there’s a mistake, consider contacting an attorney. You can also try to get the official court documents from your prior charge(s) to see if the information matches up with the report. You’ll find those documents at the Clerk’s office in the jurisdiction (e.g. Greenville, Spartanburg, out-of-state, etc) where the charge(s) originated.
Q: I applied to PTI and paid my application fee, but then I received a notice to appear in court for this charge. Should I just ignore the notice?
A: No! Never ignore a notice from the court! First, attempt to contact your PTI intake counselor at 864.467.8717 to see if you can get it resolved. If that doesn’t work and your charge is in General Sessions, call the Solicitor’s Office and see if you can speak to the Solicitor on your case or to their investigator. You can also try to email them. Tell them that you applied to PTI and are waiting to hear back. They’ll probably excuse you from coming to court. However, if you can’t get in touch with anyone, go to court! Take a copy of your PTI application fee receipt to show that you have applied to the program.
Q: I am moving to another county or state! Can I transfer my PTI case?
A: Yes but ONLY prior to or immediately following acceptance into the program. If you’ve started the program requirements, you will not be allowed to transfer your case so don’t make big moves without discussing it fully with your intake counselor. You don’t want to jeopardize your case!
Q: Yay, I’ve been accepted! I get a mulligan! What do I have to do now?
A: Everything they tell you without complaining (and without wearing your favorite marijuana T-shirt).
Really, it depends somewhat on your charge. The standard stuff includes community service work, counseling, a prison tour, random drug screens (let me repeat that: RANDOM DRUG SCREENS), restitution and case management appointments. Your counselor will give you your specific program at your first appointment.
That’s it for now. I hope that helps. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me at (864) 214-5483 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I give free consultations that usually last around an hour.
Information in this article taken from the Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office website. Policy and procedure of each PTI program may vary from county to county.
I am an attorney based in Greenville, SC and my office address is 220 North Main Street, Suite 500, Greenville, SC 29601.