With some exceptions, any person may be sentenced to Drug Court under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14, even if the applicant is ineligible for probation under N.J.S.A. 2C:45-1 because of either a conviction for a crime subject to a presumption of incarceration or a mandatory period of parole ineligibility.In 2012, the New Jersey Drug Court gained political significance. On July 19, Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation expanding Drug Court through a $2.5 million pilot program in three counties, according to The Star Ledger.
The measure expands the types of crimes that can be considered for drug court eligibility, according to nj.com, and makes drug court mandatory for non-violent drug offenders. The new law contemplates implementation across the entire state over the next five years, according to The Star Ledger.
Gov. Christie endorsed the effectiveness of Drug Court to rehabilitate individuals with addictons, as reported by nj.com and pewstates.org.
Notably, drug court costs less than imprisonment, according to nj.com. The state spends $42,000 annually per prison inmate. Drug courts, however, cost $11,300 per inmate, as reported by The Star Ledger.
The law governing drug court eligibility requires certain findings by the court before sentencing an individual to special probation. These findings must include:
- the person has undergone a professional diagnostic assessment to determine whether and to what extent he is drug or alcohol dependent and would benefit from treatment; and
- the person is drug or alcohol dependent within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-2 and was drug or alcohol dependent at the time of the commission of the present offense; and
- the person committed the present offense while under the influence of CDS, a CDS analog, or alcohol, or was committed to acquire property or monies in order to support the person's drug or alcohol dependency; and
- substance abuse treatment and monitoring will serve to benefit the person by addressing his drug or alcohol dependency and will thereby reduce the likelihood that the person will thereafter commit another offense; and
- the person did not possess a firearm at the time of the present offense and did not possess a firearm at the time of any pending criminal charge; and
- the person has not been previously convicted on two or more separate occasions of crimes of the first or second degree, other than those listed in paragraph (7); or the person has not been previously convicted on two or more separate occasions, where one of the offenses is a crime of the third degree, other than crimes defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10, and one of the offenses is a crime of the first or second degree; and
- the person has not been previously convicted or adjudicated delinquent for, and does not have a pending charge of
- aggravated manslaughter,
- aggravated assault,
- aggravated sexual assault or sexual assault, or
- a similar crime under the laws of any other state or the United States; and
- a suitable treatment facility licensed and approved by the Division of Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services is able and has agreed to provide appropriate treatment services in accordance with the requirements of this section; and
- no danger to the community will result from the person being placed on special probation pursuant to this section.