Pre-trial intervention (PTI) isn’t for everyone —just first time offenders who qualify. And don't automatically disqualify yourself if you're charged with a serious crime- we've gotten clients into PTI for felonies, including drug charges.  But the folks we help get PTI want to know what it’s like. The truth is, PTI details vary from case to  case, but there are some guidelines that will give you a basic idea of how the program works.

The two main things I tell folks about PTI is this:

  • I’ve never had anyone tell me it’s too hard or costs too much.
  • There’s only one rule: do what they tell you, when they tell you, with a smile on your face.

That said, here’s things to know about PTI.

PTI Generally

It’s best to think of pre-trial intervention as a “first chance, last chance, and only chance” diversionary program for certain first-time offenders. If you get admitted to the program (not every applicant is accepted) and if you complete the program successfully (not everyone does), then your charges will be dropped.

Compared with the risk of a prison sentence, it’s a fantastic deal. There are, however, a few details you should know before you even apply.

  • It’s a one-time thing. You only get to do it once, so be careful when you use it.
  • Duration. It takes a minimum of three months to complete the program, with all cases closed after a year. Expect to spend a few months of your life in the PTI system.
  • It’s not an admission of guilt. It’s just a different—and much better way—to dispose of your case.
  • Behave. Re-arrest can get you kicked out.
  • Weapons taken by the police at arrest get forfeited. You don’t get them back.

The Cost of PTI

PTI isn’t free. It’s a small price to pay, though, considering your charges get dismissed if you finish it. For a little more, you get them expunged, meaning wiped off your criminal record forever. Fees charged by PTI total about $635 if you choose expungement:

  • There is a $100 application fee. The state keeps this even if your application is rejected.
  • There’s a $250 participation fee, which can be split into $125 at orientation and the rest within 30 days after.
  • Expungement costs an additional $285. But no one can expunge your mugshot on the Internet or media websites.
  • Expect additional charges for special programs PTI may refer you to, as discussed below.

If your case involves restitution, meaning a victim is owed money (like replacing damaged property), you must pay that. If it’s over $2,500, you must get the balance down to $2,500 before you can be considered for PTI.

What PTI Involves

Each case is different, though some aspects are the same for all. Expect your PTI program to include the following, which you pay for in addition to the PTI fees above:

  • Public service. You must work for a nonprofit up to 100 hours. You have 60 days to complete it, or the amount doubles. You can get extra hours added for program violations.
  • A prison tour or similar program.
  • Drug screens. Everyone gets at least one round of tests for illegal drugs. You have 30 days to get clean, or you could get kicked out.
  • Drug charges require counseling with random drug screens.
  • Special programs for certain charges. These include shoplifting, criminal domestic violence- which might also qualify for the Solicitor's Intervention Program if you can't get into PTI, assault, traffic, and alcohol-related charges.

Of course, PTI can make other referrals as it deems fit.

Don’t Count Yourself Out

For our folks who end up in PTI, their greatest struggle isn’t paying for it or finishing it. It’s convincing the state to let them in. If you’re a first-time offender who wants to be considered for a shot at this incredible program that can wipe your slate clean like it never happened in the first place, call us at (888) 230-1841 for a free meeting to discuss how we can make the case for you to get into pre-trial intervention.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.