Coughlin Bill Allowing Judges to Award Community Service Only Penalties in Lieu of Fines for Certain Crimes Advances

Measure Would Grant Courts Additional Discretion in Sentencing Individuals

(TRENTON) — Legislation Assemblyman Craig J. Coughlin sponsored to allow New Jersey courts to assign community service penalties for certain crimes in lieu of monetary fines was unanimously released Monday from the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

“Giving judges the extra flexibility to take into account an offender’s financial standing before handing down a sentence that includes fines that realistically will never be repaid will save our local legal systems time and money in the long run,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “After all, time is a currency everyone values.”

Under current law, a municipal judge can only order an offender to perform community service after they have failed to pay a penalty or defaulted on a payment plan. Coughlin’s bill (A-3254) would allow municipal judges the discretion to award a community service penalty in lieu of a fine as an initial penalty.

“Some offenders simply cannot afford to pay a fine, no matter the amount,” said Coughlin. “For others, no fine — no matter the amount — will be enough to deter them from committing a crime. For these individuals, the threat of losing their free time to court-mandated community service may serve as a much better deterrent.”