Legislation to Relieve Municipal Courts, Reduce Recidivism and Lower Costs
(TRENTON) – As part of New Jersey’s continuing effort to address substance abuse and resulting criminal behavior, Assembly Democrats Thomas Giblin, Patricia Egan Jones and Ralph Caputo sponsored legislation that would give counties the authority to establish a central municipal drug court. The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee approved the bill on Thursday.
“Affording counties the choice to establish municipal drug courts that specifically deal with minor drug-related offenses creates room for a more expeditious and fair judicial process,” said Giblin (D-Essex, Passaic). “Right now, many of our local courts are overwhelmed by the number of cases on their docket and creating a central court will help lift the burden.”
The central municipal drug courts authorized under the bill (A5234) would be given the jurisdiction to hear cases involving crimes of the fourth degree, disorderly persons offenses or petty disorderly persons offenses related to controlled dangerous substances. Additionally, the bill makes community service and drug treatment programs options for sentencing, in lieu of jail time.
“Incarceration cannot be the only answer,” said Egan Jones (D-Camden, Gloucester). “By supporting sentencing alternatives that divert certain offenders into drug treatment programs, this bill helps rehabilitate people with severe drug dependencies and has a potent effect in helping reduce crime rates and recidivism.”
Failure to comply with the court ordered community service or drug treatment program would be reported to the court and could potentially result in the revocation of its order and imposition of new sentencing.
“We are acknowledging that, when it comes to certain crimes committed under the influence, there are more effective sentencing options to employ,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “The reality is addiction doesn’t end behind bars and by getting people the help they need to stay clean through community-based treatment programs we’re reducing the cost of New Jersey’s criminal justice system.”
The bill further provides for:
- Judicial appointments to the central municipal drug court to be made by nomination and appointment from the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, and with either the county executive or governing body of the county being responsible to submit a shortlist of names for consideration.
- The Presiding Judge of the Family Part of Superior Court, for the vicinage in which a central municipal drug court is established, to refer juveniles for sentencing.
- The county or municipality to employ an attorney as a prosecutor, under the supervision of the Attorney General or county prosecutor, who may represent the State, county or municipality in any matter within the jurisdiction of the central municipal drug court.
The bill now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.