Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
Key to this case: Although a juvenile record is sealed when an individual turns 18, that record can be used by a prosecutors office, trial court, and appellate Court when a defendant is denied entry into the adult PTI program.
In this case the defendant was charged with possession of drugs. At the time of his PTI appeal the defendant had the following ‘prior history’ ; a) a pending charge of conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, and weapons, b) a juvenile record which included two adjudications for simple assault and at least two probation violations. The trial court recognize the defendant’s continued exhibition of antisocial behavior despite being repeatedly afforded probation while under the age of 18. Although the defendant argued the instant arrest took place more than four years after his last juvenile adjudication, the trial court and appellate court considered his history of violent juvenile adjudications not ‘so minor’ and ‘not so distant in time’ to be incapable of supporting the prosecutors of denial into PTI.
The appellate court started by reminding the PTI trial court regarding the overriding principles pertaining to PTI cases. The defendant must show the prosecutors office committed a patent and gross abuse of discretion by showing to the trial court that the prosecutors decision was:
- not based on the consideration of all relevant factors,
- was based upon a consideration irrelevant or inappropriate factors or
- amounted to a clear error in judgment.
In order for such abuse of discretion to rise to the level of patent and gross the defendant must further show that the prosecutorial error complained of will clearly subject subvert the goals of PTI. State v. Bender, 80 NJ 84, 93 (1979).
Defendant attempted to persuade remind the court of the five delineated purposes of PTI:
- to enable defendant to avoid ordinary prosecution by receiving early rehabilitative services are expected to deter future, behavior,
- to provide defendants who might be harmed by the imposition of criminal sanctions with an alternative to prosecution expected to deter criminal conduct,
- to avoid burdensome prosecution for victimless offensive,
- to relieve overburden criminal calanders so resources can be expanded on more serious criminal matters, and
- to deter future criminal behavior of PTI participants.
See Pressler and Veniero, Current New Jersey Court Rules Guideline No. 1 on rule 3:28 ( 2016 ) and N.J.S.A. 2C: 43–12 (a).
The Appellate Division in this case was not impressed by defendants over arching general arguments of the deterrence. They found this defendant’s juvenile record of adjudication persuasive by itself. This is without taking into consideration the pending first and second agree charges for which the defendant was eventually acquitted.
The prosecutors’ decision was found to be supported by more than the other pending charges. Specifically, defendants history of juvenile adjudications and probation violations was enough for the PTI denial!
Jeffrey S. Hark, Esq.