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College basketball player opts for pre-trial diversion

Posted on August 16, 2010 3:00 AM EST

The pre-trial intervention (PTI) and pre-trial diversion (PTD) programs were created by the legislature in the State of Florida in an effort to offer first-time offenders a way to avoid a criminal conviction. The pre-trial intervention program applies to felony offenses and the pre-trial diversion applies to misdemeanor offenses. A former Miami-Dade Community College basketball player now attending the University of Minnesota, entered into the program to finally resolve his criminal charge of aggravated assault. The Miami criminal defense lawyer representing the defendant told reporters that his client entered the program as a matter of convenience despite the fact he believed the case would be won in front of a jury.

Trevor Mbakwe has been facing charges since April 2009, for the alleged aggravated assault of a local woman. The case was open for more than a year when the defendant agreed to enroll. The pre-trial intervention requires a 6 month enrollment where a defendant is required to complete special conditions. If a defendant completes the special conditions within the 6 month time period and can avoid any additional felony or misdemeanor arrests, the local state attorney's office will nolle pros or dismiss the charges. The defendant in this case is required to complete 100 community service hours and donate $100 to a victim's shelter.

In general, only certain third degree felony offenses are eligible for pre-trial intervention enrollment. For example, defendants charged with grand theft and burglary of a structure are eligible and are typically offered PTI. Sometimes, even individual charged with violent crimes such as aggravated assault, aggravated battery, battery on a law enforcement officer (LEO) or resisting an officer with violence can be offered the program. The state attorney's office will offer PTI in more serious cases, if the evidence in the case is weak. Remember, that the victim is required to approve the defendant's enrollment in the program. The more experienced and qualified Miami criminal defense law firms are better suited to get PTI enrollments on serious cases. While the prosecutor may not be initially amenable to a PTI resolution to case, if a defense attorney can significantly weaken the case through the discovery process, a PTI offer on serious charges can be obtained.

The special conditions that are required to be completed vary and generally depend on the offense for which an individual is charged. For example, in domestic violence cases, the battery intervention program will be a requirement. For violent offenses that are not domestically related, such as aggravated assault and aggravated battery, an anger management program will be required. For crimes against property, such as grand theft, a values class will be required to be successfully completed. Additionally, the state attorney's office will require the completion of community service hours and donations to local charities. The only shortfall with Miami's program is that they do not offer the program for felony drug cases like cocaine possession or possession of oxycodone or Xanax. In those types of cases, the defendant is required to complete a yearlong drug court program that is highly intensive and time consuming. While the program is better suited for people with drug problems, occasional users would be better suited in the PTI program.

Trevor Mbakwe Avoids Trial, ESPN.com, August 12, 2010.