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Drug Offender Restraining Orders

February 29, 2016 | Posted In Criminal Law

In two recent decisions from the New Jersey Appellate Division, the topic of Drug Offender Restraining Orders (or DOROs) was a hot one, raising questions about how these orders should be handled. In State v. Fitzpatrick and State v. Brister, the Appellate Court focused on when courts must announce their intentions to seek these orders, and, if the orders are denied, when the state must file an appeal to request that the denials be overturned.

In both cases, the defendants pleaded guilty to drug charges in the third degree. Both received special sentencing terms under drug court probation, rather than jail time, but at each sentencing, the prosecutor announced intentions to seek DOROs against each defendant. In previous court discussions and proceedings, there had been no mention of restraining orders in either case. The defense attorneys for each defendant argued against the DOROs because they had not been included as part of their clients’ plea bargains.

On December 2, 2014, the trial court issued a denial of the DORO in each case, and followed the sentencing agreement of probation in drug court that had been set in the plea agreements. The trial court entered orders granting the defense motions on December 9, 2014. Finally, on December 23, 2014, the state filed Notices of Appeal regarding the denied DOROs in each case. The timeline here is important because the Appellate Division’s ruling deals with the exact timeframe in which the state must file the final appeal after a denial.

What is a DORO?

A drug offender restraining order is an order that seeks to prevent a drug crimes offender from going back to the same place where he or she had previously dealt or purchased illegal drugs. This keeps drug offenders from going right back to their old stomping grounds once they’ve served their time or completed their probation requirements, and legislators have hopes that DOROs will shake up the drug scene by removing dealers from their usual habitats. A DORO also makes it easier to raise suspicion, if a convicted criminal returns to dealing or using after his or her sentence is up.

The Appellate Court Decision

The State is allowed to appeal a criminal sentence if the sentence is illegal according to state laws or if the appeal is authorized in the statute involved in a particular case. DOROs are governed by a statute that allows the state to appeal a denial, but mandates the timeframe in which the appeal must be filed. The Appellate Court determined that a Notice of Appeal filed by the state for a denied DORO must be done within 10 days of the original denial – which did not happen in the case of Fitzpatrick or Brister.

If you have been charged with criminal activity or drug crimes in New Jersey, the attorneys at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA can represent you and ensure that you are granted the full ability to defend yourself. To discuss your case or your options for a plea agreement, contact a New Jersey drug crimes lawyer at HCK today.

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