New Law Offers Relief on Unpaid DEDR Penalties

In an amendment signed into law on January 13, 2008, the legislature provided New Jersey judges with a procedure by which they can reduce the amount of a Drug Enforcement and Demand Reduction (DEDR) penalty by as much as one half in exchange for the performance of so-called “reformative service” by the defendant. Reformative service is broadly defined to include such activities as community service, work training, substance abuse counseling, education and the like. The opportunity to perform reformative service in lieu of paying the full DEDR penalty is not available to people who seek a conditional discharge.

Finally, the amended statute clarifies that a judge has the discretionary authority to impose only a single DEDR penalty in a case where the defendant has been convicted of multiple drug offenses. The amended statute reads as follows:

DEDR and Reformative Service

An Act concerning certain penalties and amending N.J.S.2C:35-15.

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

1. N.J.S.2C:35-15 is amended to read as follows:

2C:35-15. a. (1) In addition to any disposition authorized by this title, the provisions of section 24 of P.L.1982, c.77 (C.2A:4A-43), or any other statute indicating the dispositions that can be ordered for an adjudication of delinquency, every person convicted of or adjudicated delinquent for a violation of any offense defined in this chapter or chapter 36 of this title shall be assessed for each such offense a penalty fixed at:

(a) $3,000.00 in the case of a crime of the first degree;

(b) $2,000.00 in the case of a crime of the second degree;

(c) $1,000.00 in the case of a crime of the third degree;

(d) $750.00 in the case of a crime of the fourth degree;

(e) $500.00 in the case of a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense.

(2) A person being sentenced for more than one offense set forth in subsection a. of this section who is neither placed in supervisory treatment pursuant to this section nor ordered to perform reformative service pursuant to subsection f. of this section may, in the discretion of the court, be assessed a single penalty applicable to the highest degree offense for which the person is convicted or adjudicated delinquent, if the court finds that the defendant has established the following:

(a) the imposition of multiple penalties would constitute a serious hardship that outweighs the need to deter the defendant from future criminal activity; and

(b) the imposition of a single penalty would foster the defendant’s rehabilitation.

Every person placed in supervisory treatment pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.2C:36A-1 or N.J.S.2C:43-12 for a violation of any offense defined in this chapter or chapter 36 of this title shall be assessed the penalty prescribed herein and applicable to the degree of the offense charged, except that the court shall not impose more than one such penalty regardless of the number of offenses charged. If the person is charged with more than one offense, the court shall impose as a condition of supervisory treatment the penalty applicable to the highest degree offense for which the person is charged.

All penalties provided for in this section shall be in addition to and not in lieu of any fine authorized by law or required to be imposed pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.2C:35-12.

b. All penalties provided for in this section shall be collected as provided for collection of fines and restitutions in section 3 of P.L.1979, c.396 (C.2C:46-4), and shall be forwarded to the Department of the Treasury as provided in subsection c. of this section.

c. All moneys collected pursuant to this section shall be forwarded to the Department of the Treasury to be deposited in a nonlapsing revolving fund to be known as the “Drug Enforcement and Demand Reduction Fund.” Moneys in the fund shall be appropriated by the Legislature on an annual basis for the purposes of funding in the following order of priority: (1) the Alliance to Prevent Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and its administration by the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse; (2) the “Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Program for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Disabled” established pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1995, c.318 (C.26:2B-37); (3) the “Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey,” the State affiliate of the “Partnership for a Drug Free America”; and (4) other alcohol and drug abuse programs.

Moneys appropriated for the purpose of funding the “Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Program for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Disabled” shall not be used to supplant moneys that are available to the Department of Health and Senior Services as of the effective date of P.L.1995, c.318 (C.26:2B-36 et al.), and that would otherwise have been made available to provide alcoholism and drug abuse services for the deaf, hard of hearing and disabled, nor shall the moneys be used for the administrative costs of the program.

d. (Deleted by amendment, P.L.1991, c.329).

e. The court may suspend the collection of a penalty imposed pursuant to this section; provided the person is ordered by the court to participate in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program approved by the court; and further provided that the person agrees to pay for all or some portion of the costs associated with the rehabilitation program. In this case, the collection of a penalty imposed pursuant to this section shall be suspended during the person’s participation in the approved, court-ordered rehabilitation program. Upon successful completion of the program, as determined by the court upon the recommendation of the treatment provider, the person may apply to the court to reduce the penalty imposed pursuant to this section by any amount actually paid by the person for his participation in the program. The court shall not reduce the penalty pursuant to this subsection unless the person establishes to the satisfaction of the court that he has successfully completed the rehabilitation program. If the person’s participation is for any reason terminated before his successful completion of the rehabilitation program, collection of the entire penalty imposed pursuant to this section shall be enforced. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to affect or suspend any other criminal sanctions imposed pursuant to this chapter or chapter 36 of this title.

f. A person required to pay a penalty under this section may propose to the court and the prosecutor a plan to perform reformative service in lieu of payment of up to one-half of the penalty amount imposed under this section. The reformative service plan option shall not be available if the provisions of paragraph (2) of subsection a. of this section apply or if the person is placed in supervisory treatment pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.2C:36A-1 or N.J.S.2C:43-12. For purposes of this section, “reformative service” shall include training, education or work, in which regular attendance and participation is required, supervised, and recorded, and which would assist in the defendant’s rehabilitation and reintegration. “Reformative service” shall include, but not be limited to, substance abuse treatment or services, other therapeutic treatment, educational or vocational services, employment training or services, family counseling, service to the community and volunteer work.

The court, in its discretion, shall determine whether to accept the plan, after considering the position of the prosecutor, the plan’s appropriateness and practicality, the defendant’s ability to pay and the effect of the proposed service on the defendant’s rehabilitation and reintegration into society. The court shall determine the amount of the credit that would be applied against the penalty upon successful completion of the reformative service, not to exceed one-half of the amount assessed. The court shall not apply the credit against the penalty unless the person establishes to the satisfaction of the court that he has successfully completed the reformative service. If the person’s participation is for any reason terminated before his successful completion of the reformative service, collection of the entire penalty imposed pursuant to this section shall be enforced. Nothing in this subsection shall be deemed to affect or suspend any other criminal sanctions imposed pursuant to this chapter or chapter 36 of this title.

Any reformative service ordered pursuant to this section shall be in addition to and not in lieu of any community service imposed by the court or otherwise required by law. Nothing in this section shall limit the court’s authority to order a person to participate in any activity, program or treatment in addition to those proposed in a reformative service plan.

(cf: P.L.1999, c.376, s.3)

2. This act shall take effect on the 90th day following enactment.

STATEMENT

This bill would grant the court the discretion to lessen the penalties for certain drug offenses and to allow certain defendants to perform “reformative service” in lieu of a portion of such penalties.

Under current law, set out in N.J.S.2C:35-15, in addition to any other disposition ordered by the court, every person convicted of or adjudicated delinquent for an offense involving a controlled dangerous substance, controlled substance analog, counterfeit substance or drug paraphernalia is assessed a mandatory penalty for each such offense. The penalties are $3,000 in the case of a crime of the first degree; $2,000 in the case of a crime of the second degree; $1,000 in the case of a crime of the third degree; $750 in the case of a crime of the fourth degree, and $500 in the case of a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense. The penalties generally are required to be imposed for each conviction, even if other aspects of the sentence are ordered to be run concurrently. These penalties are informally known as “DEDR” penalties because they are deposited in the “Drug Enforcement and Demand Reduction Fund” (“DEDR”). The funds are appropriated for use in programs to prevent and treat drug and alcohol abuse.

The bill would expand the circumstances under which the court has discretion to allow imposition of a single penalty, instead of multiple penalties. Specifically, the bill would authorize the court to impose the penalty applicable to the highest degree offense for which the person is convicted or adjudicated delinquent under the following circumstances:

(1) the imposition of multiple penalties would constitute a serious hardship that outweighs the need to deter the defendant from future criminal activity; and

(2) the imposition of a single penalty would foster the defendant’s rehabilitation.

The bill also provides that, in the alternative, the defendant may propose to the court and the prosecutor a plan to perform “reformative service” in lieu of payment of up to one-half of the DEDR penalty in appropriate cases. The bill provides that “reformative service” includes training, education or work, in which regular attendance and participation is required, supervised, and recorded, and which would assist in the defendant’s rehabilitation and reintegration. “Reformative service” includes, but is not limited to, substance abuse treatment or services, other therapeutic treatment, educational or vocational services, employment training or services, family counseling, service to the community and volunteer work.

Under the bill, the court, in its discretion, would determine whether to accept the plan, after considering the position of the prosecutor, the plan’s appropriateness and practicality, the defendant’s ability to pay and the effect of the proposed service on the defendant’s rehabilitation and reintegration into society. The court would determine the amount of the credit that would be applied against the penalty upon successful completion of the service. The credit could not exceed one-half of the penalty amount assessed.

Any reformative service plan ordered under the bill would be in addition to and not in lieu of any community service imposed by the court or otherwise required by law. The bill provides that the court’s authority to order a person to participate in any activity, program or treatment in addition to those proposed in a reformative service plan would not be limited.

The defendant would be entitled to the credit against the DEDR penalty when he provides the court with proof of successful completion of the reformative service.

This bill embodies a recommendation of the Governor’s Strategy for Safe Streets and Neighborhoods, announced earlier this year.

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