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Take off your marijuana shirt and stop complaining: Do's and don'ts of PTI

(Okay, so that's a tree on the shirt, not a marijuana leaf. Whatever. Now for the intro...)

Pre-Trial Intervention, or PTI, is a program that gives first-time, non-violent offenders the chance to have their criminal charges dismissed and expunged. Other than just the basics which I’ve explained in another post, I wanted to give you a few more do’s and don’ts that I picked up in my seven years as a prosecutor for Greenville County (South Carolina). Here they are:

BE NICE TO YOUR SOLICITOR. Your solicitor can reject your PTI application for practically no reason at all so don’t be a jerk. After a day of domestic violence, child abuse, drug trafficking, DUI’s resulting in death, and large caseloads, the last thing a solicitor needs is another jerk in their life. Prosecutors often care tremendously about doing the right thing, but your PTI case is just a tiny drop in the bucket. Rejecting your application literally takes 5 minutes of their time. For you, though, it’s the rest of your life. Be nice.

DON'T CALL YOUR SOLICITOR/COUNSELOR...“dude, bro, brah, dawg, homes, partna’, baby, honey, etc”. Does this really need explaining? Sir and M’am work just fine.

DON'T COMPLAIN - about anything. Not about the cost, the time, the classes. Nothing. Nada. Yes, bureaucracy can be really frustrating. I get it. But as a solicitor, few things drove me more crazy than a criminal defendant complaining about how long it was taking or how many times they had to come to court. All of this is the consequences of your actions - no one else’s. Now, if you have a legitimate beef with the case, call an attorney. Attorneys are trained complainers. You’re not.

EVEN IF OFFERED PTI, CONSIDER SEEING AN ATTORNEY. Don’t just jump at a PTI offer. The case against you could be very weak and there may be a way to get it dismissed without “burning” your only PTI opportunity. Remember, like in golf, you only get one mulligan. Use it wisely.

GET MONEY (LEGALLY) FROM YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY OR TRY TO SECURE CREDIT. A large amount of restitution owed to a victim can prevent some people from getting into PTI. It’s better to default on a credit loan or owe money to friends and family than to have a criminal record for the rest of your life.

START A REHAB PROGRAM (NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS (NA), AA, FAVOR, ETC) BEFORE STARTING PTI. You should be clean at least 30 to 60 days before starting PTI or else you are destined to fail. As addicts know, the first days of getting clean are the hardest and relapse is very probable. PTI will do random drug screens. So fight that battle first so that if you “lose” a few times by relapsing you don’t end up also losing a very easy opportunity to clear your record.

DON’T WAIT TOO LONG THOUGH. Most cases at the Solicitor’s Office in Greenville County have to be completely disposed of in 9 - 11 months. If you wait too long to go to PTI and happen to flunk out after a few months, your case might be too old to be eligible for a good plea offer. You’ve then not only lost a golden opportunity to clear your record but now you’re looking at potentially a harsher sentence than if you had never gone to PTI in the first place. You probably shouldn’t wait longer than 1-3 months after your arrest to enter the program.

BE IN TOUCH WITH YOUR COUNSELOR. If any problem whatsoever arises (no transportation, no money to make your restitution payment, etc), get in touch with your counselor and let them know. As long as it’s not a recurring problem, they’ll probably work with you. But just not showing up or calling is the worst thing you can do.

DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. If you missed an appointment because went to the ER, get medical records. If your car broke down and was towed, get a time-stamped receipt. If your deadbeat friend didn’t show up to give you a ride to counseling, send an email AND leave a voicemail with everyone possible - your court counselor, your drug counselor, your grandmother (okay, maybe not your grandmother - but you get the point). Everybody! Let’s face it - you are not in the program under the best circumstances. There’s not a lot of trust being thrown your way. You need to prove your honesty.

DRESS YOUR BEST. Please, no t-shirts with marijuana leaves, sexual jokes, Tupac, Biggie, Kid Rock, ‘N SYNC (ok, that one’s okay), 9mm’s, f-bombs, or racially provocative symbols. Looking and smelling like you just left a Grateful Dead concert or a Snoop Dog house party is not helping your case. And please spare me the, “Man, this is who I am, I don’t care what people think, I’m not a sell-out” garbage. What you are, at least for now, is a person with a criminal charge hanging over their head. So, yes, what the people at court think about you does matter. A lot. That’s not “selling out”. It’s (intelligently) giving court personnel the impression that you are a good, responsible person who made a mistake in judgment. Don’t be dumb. Use one of the few tools you’ve got and dress appropriately.

That’s it for now. Those are some of my tips and considerations for PTI. Many of these apply to nearly any scenario in which you find yourself, in either magistrate court or General Sessions. I hope it helps.

If you need more help with your case, you can call me at 864-214-5483 or contact me at

I am an attorney based in Greenville, SC and my office address is 220 North Main Street, Suite 500, Greenville, SC 29601.

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