Last Thursday the New Jersey state senate passed a bill to expand the current drug court program in the state. The bill, sponsored by Senators Raymond J. Lesniak and Nicholas P. Scutari, would allow greater eligibility for offenders to be accepted into the State’s drug and substance abuse treatment program.
The bill would also create test programs in 2 counties, one in north Jersey and one in South Jersey, where eligible drug offenders would be automatically enrolled in drug treatment programs. The bill passed the Senate handily by a vote of 33 in favor and only 2 against.
Rehabilitation Following Drug Convictions
Our Burlington County criminal defense lawyer appreciate that many charged with drug crimes are most in need of rehabilitation. Yet, the criminal justice system is not always properly focused on providing the needed support.
The sponsors of the bill understand that for certain offenders the traditional punishment of incarceration and release is rarely effective. Sometimes this can lead to non-violent drug offenders becoming violent offenders later in life. The proponents of the bill claim that it is about spending the New Jersey’s correction budget more effectively and with a focus on effective rehabilitation rather than “blind incarceration.”
The Drug Court Law
The bill, as currently written, would expand the number of people convicted of New Jersey drug charges who are eligible to participate in drug court programs.
Current Law: Right now to enter drug court rehabilitation an offender must have no more than one first or second degree convictions, and the crime must have been committed under the influence or to support drug or alcohol addiction. In addition, any conviction for a violent offense bars admission to the court.
Proposed Law: If the bill passes the state assembly, these formerly mandatory provisions would be at the discretion of the court to determine who is sentenced to rehabilitation in drug court. The bill would also allow those convicted and awaiting sentencing and those already incarcerated to be re-evaluated for eligibility based on the new criteria for entry into drug court.
Pilot Program: The bill would also create pilot programs to study the recidivism, or relapse, rates for individuals punished under the new drug court laws and released on special probation. Programs would be set up in north and south Jersey for two years. After that time the pilot programs would submit their findings to the Governor and the Legislature as to the effectiveness of the programs. This is a cautious approach allowing the state to determine through these test programs if drug courts are a viable means of rehabilitation and a prudent expenditure of the state’s corrections budget.
What to do when facing New Jersey Drug Charges
The first thing when charged with any crime in our New Jersey area is to seek the advice of a drug defense attorney, Timothy Farrow. This ensures that you explore all your options when faced with charges as serious as drug charges. While drug convictions carry consequences, it is important that the consequences are properly tailored so as not to have negative life-long consequences. These moments can be used as time to get the help you need to deal with drug addiction. Fortunately, our government and judicial systems are changing to help our citizens get the help they need.