The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that judges can allow criminals to enter drug courts, which combine punishment and rehabilitation for non-violent drug offenders, even if they have more than one previous conviction for non-violent offenses, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. An appeals court ruling had limited participation in drug courts to those who were eligible for “special probation,” a type of sentence available only to drug or alcohol-dependent suspects with no more than one prior conviction.
In a 6-0 decision, the high court said there is more than one route into drug court. It said judges have the discretion to admit defendants with non-violent criminal records who would likely get a probationary sentence anyway, and need treatment for their drug problem. “Drug Courts have achieved notable success,” Justice Barry Albin wrote for the court. He reasoned that when a drug addict is likely to receive a probationary sentence, “it is preferable that defendant be monitored within a specialized court with personnel who have the particularized skills and training to maximize the prospect of the offender’s rehabilitation.” New Jersey Public Defender Yvonne Smith Segars said the decision “reaffirmed New Jersey’s position as a leader in a fundamental policy shift in the criminal law toward therapeutic jurisprudence.”