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unterdon County Prosecutor's Office
Veterans Diversion Program

Hunterdon County Prosecutor's OfficeThe Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO) is proud to announce the launch of a Veterans Diversion Program (VDP) in Hunterdon County.

Under the new VDP, eligible veterans who are charged with certain non-violent crimes may be eligible for diversion to rehabilitative treatment in lieu of the traditional criminal justice process.  The program involves intensive supervision and monitoring of a veteran’s treatment by an applicable treatment provider, this Office, and a volunteer mentor assigned to support the veteran.  Participants must meet all diversion requirements to remain in the VDP, and the program must be successfully completed within two years from the date of diversion.  Veterans admitted into the program are expected to regularly attend counseling and, where applicable, receive mental health or substance abuse treatment in accordance with VDP conditions.  A veteran who successfully completes the terms and conditions of this program to the satisfaction of the prosecutor, has not been the subject of any subsequent criminal charges and continues to make progress with mental health and/or substance abuse treatment shall have his/her charges dismissed.

To be eligible for the VDP, the applicant must be an active or former member of the United States armed forces and the charges must have some causal relation to their military service.  The Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office retains sole discretion over who is admitted into the VDP.  Veterans charged with more serious, violent crimes will not be deemed eligible for VDP participation.

HOW DIVERSION WOULD OCCUR?

Upon arrest, a law enforcement officer must inquire whether the person is an active servicemember, or has ever served in the armed forces of the United States.  See NJ Veterans Diversion Statute.[1]  If the person is an active or former servicemember or claims to be an active or former servicemember, it must be noted on the complaint-summons or complaint-warrant charging the defendant with a crime. See NJ Veterans Diversion Statute.

A law enforcement officer, after consultation with the HCPO, may divert an eligible defendant in lieu of filing a complaint against that individual.  However, the NJ Veterans Diversion Statute prohibits diversion in certain instances prior to the filing of a criminal complaint if the crime involves:

  • Restitution for damages;
  • Violence or the threat of violence;[2]
  • A violation of any restraining or protective order involving another person; or
  • Where a victim of the offense objects to the diversion.

Diversion in this fashion may occur without the filing of criminal charges on the condition that the appropriate HCPO senior staff authorizes the decision.

In summary, diversion for an eligible defendant can occur before or after the filing of a criminal complaint under the restrictions and conditions set forth herein.

HOW CAN SERVICEMEMBER STATUS BE VERIFIED?

Once a defendant claims current or former military service, it is incumbent upon him or her, with assistance of counsel where appropriate, to provide documentation or information that verifies such status.  Typically, this will be presented in the form of a validly issued Common Access Card (CAC), DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, retired ID card, a government agency- issued Veterans Identification Card, or other acceptable documentary evidence indicating former service status.

WHAT OFFENSES ARE ELIGIBLE FOR DIVERSION?

Ordinarily, any non-violent third or fourth degree crime, disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense is eligible for diversion under this program.  Servicemembers charged with other offenses may, depending on compelling circumstances surrounding the criminal offense and at the sole discretion of the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, also be deemed eligible to participate in this program.

WHAT DOES AN “ELIGIBLE” DEFENDANT MEAN?

Verification of a defendant’s current or former veteran status is the first step in determining eligibility for the VDP.  After service is verified, a defendant must be deemed “eligible” for entry into the VDP.  To be eligible, a defendant must have some mental illness or condition that may have caused or contributed to his or her commission of the offense.  A “mental illness” is defined under the NJ Veterans Diversion Statute as “a mental disorder classified within the current version of the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and includes, but is not limited to, anxiety disorders, cognitive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, depression, adjustment disorders, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

While a defendant may be deemed eligible for the VDP, the decision to accept the defendant in to the program is at the sole discretion of the HCPO after considering a number of factors, including, but not limited to:

  • The extent of causative or contributory relationship between the person’s diagnosed or apparent mental illness and the commission of the offense;
  • The amenability of the defendant to participating in the VDP conditions;
  • The nature and circumstances surrounding the commission of the offense(s);
  • The desires of any victim;
  • The person’s history of prior convictions; and
  • The likelihood that diversion will promote the person’s recovery, prevent future criminal behavior, and ensure public safety.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER AN ELIGIBLE DEFENDANT IS ACCEPTED INTO THE VDP?

A defendant accepted into the VDP program shall agree in writing to a number of terms per the NJ Veterans Diversion Statute, in addition to conditions set forth by the HCPO herein.  Specifically, a defendant may be required to agree to:

  • Participate in case management and mental health services, and comply with any recommended course of treatment;
  • Authorize any case management or treatment provider to release periodic status reports regarding the admitted defendant’s participation to the HCPO;
  • Cooperate with case management service providers to procure housing, education and employment services, where appropriate; Pay restitution for damages resulting from the offense;
  • Refrain from the use of alcohol or illegal narcotics;
  • Refrain from the possession or use of firearms or other weapons; Refrain from further criminal activity;
  • Refrain from any contact with a victim of the offense; Cooperate with a designated mentor assigned by a veterans diversion resource entity;
  • Suspend the tolling of time for purposes of the defendant’s right to a speedy trial while the defendant is participating in the VDP; Advise the HCPO of any change in address or change in case management or treatment provider; and
  • Any other terms and conditions set forth by the HCPO in the interest of the defendant’s recovery and public safety.

Since eligibility to the VDP is predicated upon an illness or condition causing or contributing to a defendant’s commission of an offense, the admitted defendant must seek and participate in mental health or addiction counseling and treatment.  A participating defendant, with the assistance of counsel, may take steps to receive necessary treatment with the Veterans Administration (VA).[4]  or, treatment through private mental health or addiction counseling and treatment at the discretion of the HCPO.

As a condition of the VDP, periodic counseling and treatment updates must be provided in writing to the HCPO through counsel or by a defendant. It is the responsibility of the defendant to make sure that these updates or reports are forwarded by the treatment provider.

Also, participants will also be assigned a mentor, a current or former servicemember who serves in a role similar to that of a “battle buddy.”  This mentor will provide continuous, peer-to-peer personal and transitional support and social networking to the participating defendant.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER SUCCESSFULLY COMPLYING WITH THE VDP CONDITIONS?

A veteran who successfully completes the terms and conditions of this program to the satisfaction of the prosecutor, has not been the subject of any subsequent criminal charges and continues to make progress with mental health and/or substance abuse treatment shall have his/her charges dismissed.

In the case of dismissal of charges after successful completion of the VDP, a defendant who successfully completed the VDP may apply for expungement following the issuance of an order of dismissal.

WHAT HAPPENS IF A VETERAN FAILS TO COMPLY WITH THE VDP CONDITIONS?

If, at any time after admission into the VDP, the prosecutor determines that the servicemember has failed to comply with any term or condition of the diversion agreement, the prosecutor may notify the court that it is prepared to proceed with the prosecution and the court shall schedule court proceedings as appropriate.

HOW TO APPLY

Attorneys who believe their clients may qualify for this program should complete the VDP Application form, VDP Medical Release form and VDP Referral form.  These forms can be obtained from the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office.  The forms should then be submitted to the assigned Assistant Prosecutor.

Any additional questions regarding the program can be directed to Assistant Prosecutor Kristin Redmond at (908) 788-1129 or kredmond@co.hunterdon.nj.us.

[1] SEE P.L. 2017, CHAPTER 42, APPROVED MAY 1, 2017 AND EFFECTIVE DECEMBER 1, 2017.  THIS NEW LAW IS CODIFIED IN THE NEW JERSEY CRIMINAL CODE AT 2C:43-23 TO 2C:43-31 (HEREINAFTER, “THE VETERANS DIVERSION STATUTE”).

 

[2] DEFINED IN THE NJ VETERANS DIVERSION STATUTE AS WHEN A “VICTIM SUSTAINS A BODILY INJURY, OR IF THE ACTOR IS ARMED WITH AND USES A DEADLY WEAPON OR THREATENS BY WORD OR GESTURE TO USE A DEADLY WEAPON, OR THREATENS TO INFLICT A BODILY INJURY.”

 

[3] THE VTI IS A NONPROFIT, TAX-EXEMPT ORGANIZATION UNDER SECTION 501(C)(3) OF THE IRS TAX CODE.  THE ORGANIZATION RELIES IN LARGE PART ON VOLUNTEERS AND PRIVATE DONATIONS.

 

[4] THE VA OFFERS SERVICES AT A NUMBER OF LOCATIONS IN AND AROUND MONMOUTH COUNTY, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, AS FOLLOWS: (1) VA OUTPATIENT TREATMENT FACILITY, 55 GILBERT STREET, TINTON FALLS; (2) VA CLINIC BURLINGTON COUNTY, 3000 LINCOLN DRIVE EAST, MARLTON; (3) VA CLINIC EAST ORANGE, 385 TREMONT AVENUE, EAST ORANGE; AND (4) VA CLINIC LYONS, 151 KNOLLCROFT ROAD, LYONS.





quoteInjustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.end quote

-Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963


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