Everyone is talking about the knockout punch Ray Rice delivered to his then-fiancee (now wife) in an elevator, which has resulted in Rice being cut from the Ravens and indefinitely suspended from the NFL. According to news reports, Rice was charged with a third-degree felony of aggravated assault, and he reportedly entered a pretrial intervention program.
If Rice had been prosecuted in Florida for an aggravated assault charge, he would have been prosecuted under Florida Statute 784.021, which defines aggravated assault as an assault with a deadly weapon, made without the intent to kill. Anyone who commits an aggravated assault in Florida can be charged with a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000.00 fine. However, in the case of a first time offense that is either a misdemeanor or a third degree felony, a defendant in Florida may be statutorily eligible to enter a pretrial intervention program.
Many people are vilifying Rice and complaining that he “got off easy” by entering into a diversion program instead of being sentenced to jail time. However, if he had been charged in Florida with the same charges, he likely would have received the same treatment, regardless of his social status. Pretrial Intervention Programs (PTI) in Florida are common resolutions in cases of first time offenders charged with misdemeanors or third degree felonies (depending on the charge) who have no prior criminal history when both the victim and the State Attorney agree to the program.
Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.