Admission to PTI bars a civil rights claim against police

Under the civil rights laws, specifically 28 U.S.C. 1983, a person can bring a civil suit against police and the municipality for violating a person’s civil rights and causing injuries. For example, if police use excessive force when making an arrest and injure a person, that person may have a case against the police for compensation for the injuries. However, there is an exception in cases where the person who was arrested is charged with a crime and those charges are “unfavorably terminated.” Certainly, if the person is actually convicted of a crime or pleads guilty then the charges are unfavorably terminated as there is now a criminal conviction. But what about cases where the person is not convicted at all, but he is instead admitted into the pre-trial intervention program (“PTI”)? PTI is a program that is similar to probation, but the defendant (usually) does not plead guilty to anything, and upon completion of the probationary period (usually 12 to 24 months) the entire case is dismissed.

In Gilles v. Davis, 427 F.3d 197 (3d Cir. 2005), the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that a Pennsylvania program that is similar to PTI is considered an “unfavorable termination” of the criminal charges. Therefore, the civil rights case was dismissed by the court. Recently, in Fernandez v. City of Elizabeth, No. 11-1294 (3d Cir. 2012), the plaintiff claimed civil rights violations against the City of Elizabeth and the city claimed that the case should be thrown out since Mr. Fernandez entered the PTI program. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that PTI – even though all charges are eventually dismissed – is still an unfavorable termination of the criminal case and therefore the civil rights suit against the city will be dismissed.

If you are accused of a crime and are considering making a civil rights claim for false arrest, excessive force, etc., then you should understand that entering the PTI program will prevent you from succeeding in such a law suit. And if you need a New Jersey criminal lawyer, we would encourage you to call the office for a free consultation.

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