NJ Drug Court Pleas
- April 6, 2012
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The Drug Court program in New Jersey, a diversionary program for defendants facing charges for heroin, cocaine, Escasty, methamphetamines, xanax, vicodin, percoset, percodon, fentanyl, adderall, nembutal, ritalin, dexedrine, valium, suboxone, diazepam, roxycontin, oxycottin and other addictive substances to receive help in dealing with their problem, has had an amazing success rate of 75% effectiveness for those completing the program. The program offers defendants who cannot prove themselves innocent an opportunity to enter into a rigorous program with a limited term inpatient treatment program followed by very active participation with probation. It also offers prosecutors an opportunity to “clear cases” by giving defendants an opportunity to avoid both prison and the rigors of a trial when the defendant does not have the weight of the evidence in their favor.
Unfortunately for some defendants, they are known within “the system”, or to a particular prosecutor for one reason or another, and the prosecutor on their case is not particularly willing to give them the opportunity to enter Drug Court. Prosecutorial discretion is a factor and the prosecutor can both decline and fight against Drug Court for a particular defendant. A defendant still has the opportunity to enter into a plea and, if he or she is eligible, file a Motion to be accepted into Drug Court at sentencing over the prosecutor’s objection.
One danger of a Drug Court plea is that a prosecutor may successfully argue against a defendant’s entry into the program at sentencing and defendant will be sentenced to the prison term associated with the underlying offense. If this occurs, because the defendant was never promised drug court in entering into the plea, the defendant will not be able to withdraw the plea.
No matter how good an alternative it may sound, a defendant should always consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before taking a plea. Recently, in State v. McMillan, defendant was promised the opportunity to apply for Drug Court in a plea agreement and accepted the plea only to learn at sentencing that he was “per se ineligible” for Drug Court. Although defendant was represented, his lawyer was not aware the defendant was barred from applying to Drug Court and did not raise the appropriate argument in the trial court upon learning this fact. The defendant appealed and the appeal was denied. McMillan now has the opportunity to seek post-conviction relief but is incarcerated in the meantime. When facing criminal charges, make sure you have the right representation to avoid any further surprises.
For more information on Drug Court or criminal charges in New Jersey, visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com.