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Help! My child was charged with marijuana. Should we take PTI?

Help! My child was charged with marijuana. Should we take PTI?

A common situation faced by parents is what to do when their child is charged with marijuana. We receive calls from panicked mothers or fathers who say that the officer recommended PIT and they wonder whether they should accept it.

What is PTI?

Pre-trial intervention, or PTI, is a formal diversion program operated by the solicitor’s office. It’s a diversion program, meaning that cases are referred in before they are resolved in court. It’s not a sentence, like a fine or going to jail. Instead, it is an alternative to being prosecuted in court. Cases go to PTI before someone is found guilty or pleads guilty\no-contest.

PTI can be for people who are guilty, innocent, or somewhere in-between. In order to complete PTI the defendant (the one charged), has to perform community service, pass drug tests, pay fees, and go several months without getting in more trouble. There might be other special conditions such as a requirement to complete drug counseling.

Completing PTI results in a charge being dismissed and removed from someone’s record. Not-completing PTI results in the case going back to court for prosecution.

This sounds great. Why not take PTI?

There are a lot of reasons to consider not using PTI for a marijuana charge\ticket. Here are a few:

  1. You only get to use PTI once in your lifetime. PTI can be used to resolve all kinds of criminal charges, up to and including some felonies. A high school\college kid using it for a marijuana ticket might really regret that decision if they are charged with something more serious later (even 20-30 years later).
  2. You can’t complete PTI if you can’t pass drug tests. A lot of people aren’t willing to stop using marijuana. Many parents think that their kids will abstain, but many young people have different ideas. They might think that only one puff won’t hurt, or you can trick the test by drinking elixirs sold online, or using store-bought urine (yes, that is a thing).
  3. You might not be able to complete PTI if you get more charges. The PTI program might kick out a participant who picks up new charges while enrolled. Because it might take 6 months, or more, to complete PTI there is plenty of time to accumulate new charges. Even kids that can stop smoking marijuana themselves so that they can pass a drug test might not stop hanging around their friends that have marijuana, leading to a subsequent marijuana charge (for example, the police might ticket everyone in a car for marijuana when its located in the driver’s door pocket).
  4. There are other options. There are several other options that can have the same final result as going to PTI. One example is the conditional discharge program. Another option is to have a defense attorney seek a negotiated resolution with the prosecutor resulting in a dismissal of the charge, or contest the case in court. There are a lot of possible legal defenses to marijuana charges, many dealing with search and seizure laws, and proper handling and testing for marijuana. For example, police testing is no longer accurate enough to automatically prove an illegal quantity of THC

Also keep in mind that even if someone is convicted of marijuana possession in court they can have the conviction expunged in three years (assuming no other convictions).

So what should I do?

This article isn’t legal advice, and unfortunately there isn’t one answer that’s right for everyone. A marijuana ticket is a criminal charge. Defendants have all the same substantive rights as someone charged with any other crime, even major ones like bank robbery or murder. Not only that, the legal issues getting into police searches or drug testing are very complex. People write thousand pages books on these topics.

What you should do is to make sure your child has an opportunity to consider all their options. Remember, in court you can’t talk for them (unless you are a licensed attorney). They have to make up their own mind. They also shouldn’t feel pressured to agree to something that they won’t be able to complete.

Ultimately if you think that getting this right is important for your child’s short and long-term interests then you need to see that they have legal representation. This is really the best way to ensure that your child’s rights are protected and that the best decision can be made. The first step is to request a free consultation with one of our experienced defense attorneys. You can do this by calling 1-888-301-6004.


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