New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently signed a bill that would phase in mandatory drug court programs for nonviolent offenders in the state. The new law will now allow statewide mandatory sentencing to drug court programs instead of mandatory incarceration for people who have been convicted of nonviolent offenses.
The phase-in will occur gradually over a five-year period. The new law (A-2893/S-881) will also require that courts determine the effectiveness of the drug court program annually during this phase-in. The drug courts will also compare recidivism rates in those counties that have implemented the program with those counties in which the program does not exist.
Currently, under the law, the drug court program is only voluntary. However with the expansion of the law, all persons, depending on circumstances, who are convicted of nonviolent offenses, will be put through the program.
Before completing a drug court program, certain defendants will be required to undergo a professional diagnostic assessment. The assessment will determine whether the defendant is dependent on drugs, and whether a drug court program will actually benefit him or her. Any defendant who is suspected to be dependent on drugs, and is not eligible for probation because he has been convicted of a crime that has incarceration as the penalty, may undergo this assessment.
There are also other criteria that a person must meet before he is placed in the drug court program. If the assessment finds that the person is indeed eligible for the drug court program, then he will be sentenced to the program. However, the court can recommend imprisonment in those cases where it believes that imprisonment is the better option or in those cases where the court believes that the defendant’s needs would not be served through a drug court program.
The New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman represent persons who have been charged with DUI, drug crimes, sex crimes, murder, fraud, assault and other crimes across New Jersey.