ASSEMBLY, No. 4252

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

213th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED NOVEMBER 30, 2009

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  JACK CONNERS

District 7 (Burlington and Camden)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Establishes the "Veterans Court Pilot Program."

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning offenders who are veterans of the United States Armed Services of the United States of America and supplementing Title 2B of the New Jersey Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.  There is hereby established a "Veterans Court Pilot Program" which shall have as a purpose the diversion of certain nonviolent offenders who are veterans of any military conflict or war in which the United States military is or has been a part of, away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate treatment.  The veterans court shall be administered by the Administrative Offices of the Courts and shall be created in Burlington County.

 

     2.  The Veterans Court Pilot Program shall hear cases involving veteran defendants charged with the commission of a nonviolent petty disorderly persons offense or a disorderly persons offense and who suffer from mental illness.

 

     3.  a.  All municipal court cases involving persons charged with nonviolent petty disorderly persons offenses or disorderly persons offenses who preliminarily qualify for admission to the Veterans Court Pilot Program shall, prior to an arraignment, be assigned or transferred to that program.

     b.  A defendant will be preliminarily qualified if they previously or currently have been charged with an offense and have been diagnosed by a mental health expert as suffering from mental illness or have manifested obvious signs of mental illness or, subject to confirmation, asserts the status of veteran during arrest or confinement or before any court.

     c.  Motions for transfer into the Veterans Court Pilot Program may be made by the defense or the prosecutor accompanied by documentation or testimony in support thereof and shall be heard by the judge assigned to the Veterans Court Pilot Program, who shall make the final determination of a defendant's eligibility.

     d.  Any transfer of a defendant into the Veterans Court Pilot Program, unless specifically objected to by the defense counsel, shall be deemed a waiver of the defendant's right to a speedy trial and formal discovery, other than the providing of documentation relating to the defendant's mental health status and all available statements and police reports.

     e.  If the assigned judge determines that the veteran defendant has been charged with an offense and is mentally ill, the defendant shall be eligible for the Veterans Court Pilot Program.

     f.  Once a defendant is accepted into the Veterans Court Pilot Program, the defendant's right to a speedy trial may be reinstated upon a written demand.


     4.  a.  The court shall order an eligible defendant to enter a "short term care facility" as that term is defined in section 2 of P.L.1987, c.116 (C.30:4-27.2) as a voluntary admission patient, or other appropriate treatment facility in the community for screening services and treatment and shall stay any further proceeding until the release of the defendant.  The court shall facilitate the defendant's admission into an appropriate program.

     b.  If the defendant willfully fails to comply with the provisions of P.L.    , c.   (C.        ) (now pending before the Legislature as this bill) or at any time refuses to participate in an individualized treatment plan established for his care or treatment or otherwise refuses to comply with the terms of the court order, he shall be returned to custody.

 

     5.  As used in this act “veteran defendant” means (a)  a person who suffers from a diagnosed mental illness or condition caused by or related to active duty service in the United States Armed Services; or (b)  who is undiagnosed as a person who suffers from a diagnosed mental illness or condition caused by or related to active duty service in the United States Armed Services, but who is a veteran of any war or military conflict in which the United States military is or has been a part of as defined in subsection b. of N.J.S. 11A:5-1; or (c)  who is a “disabled veteran” as that term is defined in subsection a. of N.J.S11A:5-1.

 

     6.  The Supreme Court of New Jersey may adopt court rules appropriate or necessary to effectuate the purposes of this act.

 

     7.  This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill creates a Veterans Court Pilot Program which shall have as a purpose the diversion of certain nonviolent offenders who are veterans away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate treatment.  The veterans court shall be administered by the Administrative Offices of the Courts and shall be established in Burlington County.  The Veterans Court Pilot Program shall hear cases involving veteran defendants who are charged with the commission of a nonviolent petty disorderly persons offense or a disorderly persons offense, and who suffers from a mental illness.  The bill defines a veteran defendant as (a)  a person who suffers from a diagnosed mental illness or condition caused by or related to active duty service in the United States Armed Services; or (b)  who is undiagnosed as a person who suffers from a diagnosed mental illness or condition caused by or related to active duty service in the United States Armed Services, but who is a veteran of any war or military conflict in which the United States military is or has been a part of as defined in subsection b. of N.J.S. 11A:5-1; or (c)  who is a “disabled veteran” as that term is defined in subsection a. of N.J.S 11A:5-1.

 

     This pre-trial intervention program is designed to supplement the Veterans Assistance Project of the Administrative Offices of the Courts, a pilot program to assist military veterans who enter the court system.